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Have you eaten rice, yet? Directly translated from Cambodian, this is a common greeting when you meet someone on the street. As with any culture, food is of central importance in Cambodia.
Siem Reap has no shortage of restaurants, with cuisines to fit everyone's tastes and prices to fit all budgets. Nearly every restaurant has some of the same Cambodian dishes touted as "real" Cambodian food. However, not surprisingly, most Cambodians don't regularly eat Amok, Curry or Lok Lak as these are made with expensive ingredients and only made for special occasions.
What is a typical Cambodian dish, you ask? A standard Cambodian meal usually includes a soup (samlor) with lots of chunky vegetables, sometimes fish and often a combination of sweet, salty and sour flavors. Often there is an additional dish of some sort of stir-fried vegetable, or better yet, a prahok- based dish (Cambodian fermented fish paste). Every meal is served with steamed rice. In fact, for Cambodians, it is not a meal if you don't eat rice.
You will also find that Cambodians LOVE snacking. There are numerous sorts of carts being pushed around town at any time of day selling anything from fresh fruit and roasted bananas in the daytime hours. Don't forget to pick up your chili salt to dip your pineapple in! In the evening time, the roti pancakes and fried noodle carts come out. The fried noodles will set you back 50 to 75 cents and are made by adding lots of vegetables and even some meat to a package of instant noodles. Cambodians also love their bread sandwiches which are stuffed with sweet pickled vegetables and pieces of chopped pork, though it's mostly fat. You can order it sans meat if you prefer.
The range of food available is immense in Siem Reap considering it is the 3rd poorest province in the country. But you don't truck in a bunch of foreigners and neglect their palattes, now do you? Alongside home-style Cambodian restaurants, there are now places to find Khmer fine dining. In the spectrum of Asian dining, there is no shortage of Indian, Thai, Korean, Japanese or Chinese restaurants. You can even find Filipino and Burmese food if you look really hard. Personally, if a person wanted Thai food, then they could simply cross the border. The Korean and Chinese restaurants cater primarily to the tour groups, whereas the Japanese restaurants are still very intimate places to gather. And the number of Indian restaurants that have opened is mind boggling.
If you're looking for Western food, then there's a plethora of options in Siem Reap. There will always be French food available in the Kingdom, and will often be higher priced. But thank God for the French and their pastries and baked goods because you can certainly find a variety of baguettes in town. There's also some options for Australian steaks, Irish & English pub grub, German schnitzel, American burgers & fries, and more!
Thankfully there's also a growing presence of vegetarian restaurants. It used to be if you didn't eat meat, then you ordered stir-fried vegetables. Now, there are whole restaurants and cafes dedicated to the animal-free diet.
For some late night snacking, head to the Pub Street area where there are several food stalls peddling various assortments of fried what-nots and fruit shakes (mind the sugar content as they add white sugar in addition to the sweetened condensed milk). Although, a few of these are specializing in BBQ and it can be quite tasty to pick out your meat and have it grilled on the spot for you. You can also flag down one of those carts, or head to some of the market areas that set up metal tables and plastic chairs for the night.
Many people tend to focus on the Pub Street and Old Market areas, but it's well worth looking down the smaller alleys for some hidden gems, too, or branching out along National Road 6, Sivutha Blvd, Wat Bo Road and beyond.