A foodie forage in Phnom Penh

Cambodian market treats: crikets, frogs, snakes, chicken feet and eggs.

Cambodian market treats: crikets, frogs, snakes, chicken feet and eggs.

On my very first day in Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh, I met up with fellow blogger and fellow Australian, Sonya from Urban Forage.

Now based in the Phnom Penh she keeps pretty busy writing ebooks, managing a popular blog, organising tours and running ‘roving dinners’ through The city. The dinners highlight the different tastes of the city by visiting a different restaurant for each course.

So after I booked my flight to the Cambodian capital I immediately checked in to see if she was running any dinners during my trip.

Alas, she had none planned, but kindly offered to take me on a little tour through the local markets, ending at a Cambodian beer house. How could I say no!?!

We started our evening at one of the tallest buildings in the city, the Phnom Penh Towers and had a quick look around the very trendy ‘Eclipse’ rooftop bar… before the nightly rains came in and we were forced to head to dryer grounds.

Dryer grounds turned out to be the iconic Foreign Correspondents Club for a few beers overlooking the waterfront. The bar once served as a safe haven for journalists and international correspondents in the 1990s while they reported on the United Nations progress in disintegrating the Khmer Rouge Regime.

Anyone can enjoy a drink or dinner in the bar these days and thankfully the city is a much friendlier place.

And after a little bit of Dutch courage we were off to the night markets for some local delicacies of fried crickets and baby frogs that were… surprisingly delicious.

I was happy to get to try some Cambodian desserts, although they are very different to what I would normally pick at home. Dessert in Cambodia could involve tapioca, pumpkin or lentils prepared with a heap of sugar and topped with crushed ice. The perfect cool treat after a big day exploring the city in the heat!

Cambodian desserts, yum!

Cambodian desserts, yum!

This was to be my first experience of the notorious Cambodian sweet tooth, a theme I enjoyed throughout my visit to the country. I even developed a taste for ‘sweet milk’ (or condensed milk) in my morning iced coffee!

For me the highlight of the evening was to be the visit to the Cambodian beer hall where drinking beer is an entertaining affair. Due to the hot climate Cambodians enjoy their beverages by pouring the beer over ice, chugging the glass in one gulp and then counting the empty bottles to determine the bill at the end of the night.

But it’s not just about the beer, the food was a delicious and thorough introduction to an amazing cuisine that I was to enjoy for the next month. Personal favorites of mine included the Kampot Pepper Squid (see more on Kampot pepper) and ‘Fish on Fire Lake’ (cooked fish simmering in a broth over a flame with fresh vegetables).

Phnom Penh is an incredible city that, like many other smaller Asian cities, sometimes gets a bad rap amongst travelers. But it is certainly worth putting in a bit of effort to scratch the surface to discover the lively restaurant scene, fun nightlife, great shopping and some of the friendliest people you will ever meet.

And if you do need a little help scratching the surface please check out Sonya’s blog for some inspiration or to do the same tour visit www.urbanforage.co/local-market-and-bbq-dinner

The  low down on accommodation:

I stayed in two hostels during my visits to the city, both were super clean and super social but while the The Mad Monkey had a better location, 88 Backpackers had a pool so it is up to you!

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