Phnom Penh Food Tour

One of the best ways to truly understand a country is through its food, as it reflects the culture and the people who make it. During our visit to Phnomh Penh, we were fortunate to have an incredibly passionate food enthusiast as our guide, who referred to herself as a “true foodie”. She took us on a culinary adventure through the city.

Neara, our guide, shared some intriguing stories with us. She mentioned that she was in her early thirties and had a difficult upbringing, growing up in the years after the genoicide.

For instance, she shared a story about her father, who used to work in the fields during the period of the genocide. When there was nothing else to eat besides rice stew or rice pudding, he would collect frogs in the fields and cook them quietly at night. It was a dangerous act as it was against the regime in power at the time.

It’s fascinating how frogs are still part of the local diet, reminding us of the hardships people faced during those days when they had very little money and had to be resourceful with their food choices.

By the way, the frogs we tasted during the food tour were absolutely delicious.

The tour itself was excellent, and we found it on a website.

It took us from experiencing traditional Cambodian cuisine to trying modern fusion dishes.

Our first meal was a delectable Cambodian curry noodle dish with a mild yet flavorful curry. Our guide warned us that it might be too strong for our taste buds. We actually found it quite mild, but that’s likely just our tastes.
At the second stop, we visited a family-style restaurant where we indulged in dishes like smashed eggplant with pork, fermented fish with pork, and braised pork, eggs, and tofu. Each dish was incredibly tasty.
We had the opportunity to observe two women behind the kitchen area, smiling, joking, and having a lovely time while preparing the meals, which added to the overall enjoyable experience.
Our third stop featured barbecue frog and BBQ pork ribs, along with some vegetables. It was a unique and flavorful combination.
The fourth stop took us to a more modern fusion restaurant, which had a slight Western touch.

We savored the dishes there, and by this point, we were already quite full. We even packed some leftovers to bring home for our guide, Neara, and our driver to share with their families.

At the fifth stop, we dropped by a dessert bar, a simple stall on the street serving various sweet treats.

Finally, at our sixth and last destination, we visited a startup building where multiple businesses operated. We enjoyed some delightful cocktails infused with local herbs and spices.

However, the highlight of the tour was our guide, Neara. She was incredibly generous with her time and opened up about her life experiences.

She shared with us that in the aftermath of the genocide, people hurriedly returned to the city, seeking any available housing. Her mother chose a place near the city, which wasn’t highly sought after at the time. Now, like many inner-city areas, it has become a vibrant and popular location.

These are the wonderful personal conversations you can experience on something like a food tour, that you might not read about in official publications or more formal tour groups.

We had engaging conversations with Neara, and we found her to be a charming and captivating guide throughout the tour.

2 Replies to “Phnom Penh Food Tour”

  1. I am really enjoying your Vietnam/Cambodian travel posts. This food tour sounds terrific. There is some low common denominator about western people’s tolerance of hot food.I think most Australians are well above that. If your guide is in her early thirties, I can’t see how she would have experienced the genocide. But yes, her father certainly would have and he survived.

    1. Yes, too young to have been alive herself during the years of the Khmer Rougue, but not by much. The impact is still being felt today, and a number of the current government, including the Prime Hun Sen were part of the KH. By the way, I noticed one sentence above that was unclear.

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