Siem Reap is the undisputed tourist-queen of Cambodia and home to the UNESCO-listed Angkor Archaeological Park, once the heart and soul of the ancient Khmer Empire. You would expect that such a popular, special place would be brimming with amazing restaurants and food stalls, offering taste-bud-exploding culinary experiences. Except it’s not. Take a stroll along Pub Street and its side alleys and you’ll discover a myriad of restaurants, cafés and bars, offering every cuisine under the blistering Cambodian sun. Unfortunately, most of the food offered is, at the very best, just good enough.
But if you’re anything like me, you may wish for something more than just ‘good enough’. Sometimes you want those taste buds to simply jump for joy at the taste of an extraordinary meal.
Well, I’ve got just the treats for you – because life’s far too short for ‘good enough’.
Schnitzel Wirtin: The KING of Schnitzel
Your gastronomic mission, should you wish to accept it, is to polish off a whole serve of pork or chicken schnitzel at Schnitzel Wirtin (also known as The Crocodile River Bistro) on Tonle Sap Road. This is no ordinary feat, mind you, as each serving includes roughly 1kg of meat and a side dish of your choice (go the potato salad!) Prices are not cheap (for Cambodia) yet one bite of the heavenly cutlet will also convince you that it’s worth every cent.
The food here is not only fantastic for Asia, a place not exactly renowned for serving great Western food, it’s totally amazing, full stop. Of all the many memorable meals we’ve had in the last three years on the road, this one still rates as the best. Go on an empty stomach, wear stretchy pants and let me know what you think.
Traditional Cooking Class: A Comprehensive Cultural Indulgence
I’ll be the first to admit to not being terribly taken by the Cambodia traditional cuisine. I readily considered it a bland version of Thai food, but all of that changed once I splurged on an incredible cooking class in Siem Reap.
After much research, I went with Beyond Unique Escapes because the company seemed to be the only agency offering much more than a simple chop-it-cook-it-and-eat-it experience. I was right. Classes are held in a small rural village just a few miles out of the city centre, and include a walking tour and visit with a local family. The food itself was beyond unique and surprisingly easy to prepare. Classes include transportation to and from your chosen Siem Reap hotel and a glass of wine or beer with your meal.
Stall on Street 27: Drool-Worthy Seafood
Half way up Street 27 on the eastern side of the Siem Reap River (one block before ‘Check-In Café’) is where you’ll discover one of the most amazing little seafood joints in town. This street-side restaurant has no name and barely a menu but offers mouth-watering grilled and stir-fried prawns, squids, cockles, and fish. Seriously! The restaurant opens at 6 pm and stays open until daily supplies are depleted, which tends to be around 9 pm. The best part? This would have to be one of Siem Reap’s cheapest food stalls. You can literally eat your own body weight in seafood and the experience will cost you merely $5.
And what’s not to like about that?
**Full Disclosure: I’ve partnered with Hipmunk to bring you a collection of fun and informative destination guides. Yes, I’m being paid to write these blogs, but do note that all opinions, recommendations, ideas and photos are mine and mine alone — for your virtual traveling pleasure.