Phnom Nom Nom Market Town

After three months in Vietnam, I was ready for a new food adventure!  Little did I know that Southern Vietnamese cuisine and Cambodian cuisine were so similar.  D’oh.  Well at least the food is good, and there are some differences.  I am still in a land of a lot of rice noodles though.  I usually hit the ground eating by checking out local blogs but the coverage of this city is lackluster and poorly organized.  I also think CNNGo’s inclusion of Phnom Penh in their 10 best street food cities in Asia is a bad choice.  If you had to add “fresh cut fruit with spicy salt” and “fresh green coconuts” to your list, you cannot think of 10 great street foods for people to try.  Perhaps more telling is that the writer is based here.  Local love does not mean including cities that do not stand out.

I don’t take pictures everywhere often because I am too busy enjoying the food to remember.  Sometimes I’ve forgotten my camera and the lighting is too awful for my flash-less phone to take.  And there are other times I just don’t because I feel bad that there are hordes of foreigners running around with DSLR cameras shoved in everyone’s faces capturing that perfect shot.  It does mean I’m missing pictures of two of the better street foods.  The first is Bai sach chrouk, grilled pork chops sometimes marinated in coconut and served over broken rice.  I had a fair bit of this in Saigon but it’s still tasty and not what I expect breakfast to be.  Nom banh chok is new to me, although may have  a Thai counterpart.  It’s rice noodles covered in a curry like gravy and a mess of banana flowers and other herbs/vegetables.  Also unpictured is Kampal market, a smaller local market smack dab in the middle of tourist/backpacker riverside central.  Despite the location, it is full of locals and close to street prices.

The high number of markets and Chinese population means I stumbled into an entire alley of whole roasted pigs. If I lived here, I’d just buy a new part daily.

One of my favorite things to do in new towns in wander into markets and buy anything I cannot identify. This lady was selling soy milk, which I was going to get until I saw this green number. It tasted slightly beany.

This is the Orussey market, same as the whole roasted pigs.  Not be confused with Russian market, which is only full of tourist crap and foreigners.  I might be in love with the butcher area here. That’s a lot of sausage and some hooves below it.

In Vietnam and Cambodia these paddy crabs are pounded and used to flavor broths. I love their vivid coloring as they wiggled in the bowl.

This is the dome of Central Market against the backdrop of the upcoming modern Phnom Penh. They claim this is the biggest dome in all of Southeast Asia. I’m pretty sure they like making up things so that it can be the biggest _____ in ______.

Since the street options were kind of limited, I set foot in more restaurants than normal. It did break my bank a little but I rather enjoyed this tripe platter with prahok sauce.

The waitress who spoke little English already giggled at me when I saw how big the tripe plate was. Then she brought the deep fried morning glory, beef and egg salad I ordered. Well, nothing like a feast for a Cambodian family for one.

One of the undermentioned dishes for tourists appears to be the sour soups of Cambodian cuisine. Soups certainly aren’t glamorous but I grew up with one at the dinner table every night so it feels familiar that it pulls a meal together. However, traveling alone I can’t order so many dishes so this banana flower and tiny fish sour soup is my meal. The fresh coconut rounds it out.

Fish on fire lake at a local beer garden involves a whole fried fish swimming in a delicious pink curry sauce. Curry in this country is more watery than their Thai or Lao counterparts. It is served with rice noodles and fresh vegetables.

I walk everywhere in town, much to the chagrin of the endlessly pushy tuk tuk drivers.  I counted one day and I say no to about thirty of them a day.  It really did sour the mood to have to constantly tell people to go away, and I am not used to it even months after being in the region.  There are a lot more cars here, probably due to Vietnam’s 150% tariff on car imports.  However I wasn’t ready for what the huge income split meant once they had cars.  I’ve seen more Porsches and Land Rovers here than I have since I was back in America.

Rich people here also want Leap Frogs for their children. I also saw an ad for Montessori education. I used to work for a chidren’s electronic educational toy company, and I was less than happy that we were only enriching rich kids’ educations. They are the group that need it least.

The downside to all this market exploration is that I have finally been fully sidelined with traveling sickness.  This is why you carry antibiotics in your pack!  I’ll be out a few days before I’m out eating the streets again.

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3 comments
  1. Jenn said:

    “One of my favorite things to do in new towns in wander into markets and buy anything I cannot identify.”
    dad would be proud

    • He would be more proud if I then bought 5 lbs of something, because it was cheap.

      • Jenn said:

        and he would have been most proud if it was giant okra that was no longer edible

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