Street Eats: Tonle Bassac, Independence Monument
When I first arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in October 2016, I knew exactly where I wanted to live: Tonle Bassac. In particular, I was drawn to the vibrant and eclectic Phsar Kap Kor area on Street 9. This neighborhood had a buzzing food scene, with small traditional shop stalls and flat houses serving food and drinks from as early as 5 AM. Not to mention, it was conveniently located near the nightlife of Bassac Lane and within walking distance of Independence Monument Park and the Royal Palace.
For the past six years, I have lived in the same building, although I did switch from the alley of Kap Kor Market to a quieter area on Street 294. I've always kept my favorite eats in this neighborhood a secret, but now I feel it's time to share my knowledge of the hidden food gems in the area. So, let me introduce you to a new segment I like to call "Street Eats" – featuring my top 5 recommendations.
1. Thavy's Mee Cha
Inside Phsar Kap Kor Market
Located on the west end perimeter of Phsar Kap Kor Market, next to a coffee stall, you'll find Thavy's small five-seater traditional food stall. Thavy serves six types of mee cha (stir-fried noodles), ranging from simple white noodles to Mama Thai-style packaged noodles. Each dish comes with fresh vegetables, and you can add beef if you'd like. While she also serves fried rice, the dry noodles are the crowd favorite among her loyal customers. A complete meal with eggs and meat costs 6,500 riels ($1.62). Don't forget to grab a refreshing green ice tea from the neighboring stall for an additional 1,000 riels ($0.25). Thavy's stall opens at around 6:30 AM and closes around 11:30 AM. Cash and ABA friendly.
2. Kuyteav Norodom
Opposite corner end of Malis Restaurant
On the other side of the street from the overrated Malis Restaurant, you'll find a humble night stall that serves some of the best dry noodles in town! This open-air eatery offers kuyteav (Khmer-style broth noodles), fried rice, and a few Khmer soups. The portions of rice and dry noodles are generous enough to fill up two people. Make sure to try their picked veggies and house soups; they have incredible flavor. If they forget to serve you, don't hesitate to ask for it for free. Dishes with meat range from 7,000 to 8,000 riels ($1.75 to $2). The stall opens around 4:30 PM and stays open until 1 or 2 AM.
3. Sytha's Kitchen
No. 16 Street 29
Tucked away in a leafy flat house on Street 29, you'll find one of my favorite local chefs, Sytha. She and her partner run this small, unpretentious homestyle restaurant. There's no menu on the table, but don't worry – their English may be limited, but you can either show them a picture or point to a dish that other customers are having, and you can't go wrong. I've tried about 10 different dishes in the three years they've been in business, including tom yum soup, shrimp omelette, seafood fried rice, beef lok lak, and more. All their dishes range from 8,000 to 10,000 riels ($2 to $2.50). Pro-tip: ask for the coconut coffee from neighboring Elite Coffee for an extra 5,500 riels ($1.35). The restaurant opens at around 9 AM for breakfast, although be prepared for a wait of 30-40 minutes around lunchtime (11:50 AM to 1 PM) as it gets busy with office workers from nearby.
4. Borbor Moin (Chicken Porridge)
Northeast end of Street 29
Years ago, this place had knee-high red plastic chairs and tables, with a low-lying blue tarp to provide some shade. It may not have been the most comfortable spot, but they served the best (and possibly cheapest) chicken porridge on the east side of Monivong! For just $1.25 (5,000 riels), you can enjoy this Khmer comfort food, which is perfect for a gloomy overcast day or after a monsoon rain. They have at least five types of chicken parts you can order, from feet and skin pieces to intestines and pulled chicken. Don't forget to order cha kvai (Chinese fried donuts) for 1,000 riels ($0.25) per pair and wash it down with ice cold sugar cane juice ($0.50). They start serving at 4 PM and usually sell out by 7:30 to 8 PM daily.
5. Nompang Pate
Next to Ostra Fine Foods on Sothearos Blvd
Every now and then, when I crave a simple Khmer-style nompang pate, I used to have to go all the way to Watt Koh by Sorya Mall. But one day, on a random late afternoon, I stumbled upon this small flat house opposite Super Duper that served this light and cheap snack. They pack the nompang with fresh condiments like cilantro, cucumbers, and extra-long stick green onions, along with three types of meat and pate spread. I skip the honey and butter spread and replace it with a slap of fresh chili paste and black peppers. This place also serves other small snacks like nom pao and dumplings, but the nompang is what I come here for, and it never disappoints. Bonus: ask the staff to lightly toast your bread over their charcoal grill. You'll only have to pay $1.00 (4,000 riels) for this delicious treat. Don't forget to ask for free jrouk (pickled veggies).
Do you own a restaurant or bar that you'd like me to visit and review? Drop me a Telegram or email.