Sunday, August 27, 2017

Khmer Kitchen: An Authentic Khmer Restaurant in Siem Reap, Cambodia


My Cambodian food vocabulary is limited to lok lak and Anchor Beer. Well, my first two visits to Siem Reap were too brief to even have a decent three-meals-a-day kinda thing. So when we got the chance to have a four-day breather in Siem Reap with no major temple hopping activities, we made sure that we got to taste authentic Khmer cuisine. First stop, Khmer Kitchen.

Khmer Empire is an ancient kingdom which ruled in Indochina (with its capital in Angkor) between 9th to 13th centuries. Khmer can also refer to Cambodian people, language, or culture. Upon learning that Khmer Kitchen is one of the oldest restaurants in Siem Reap’s downtown Old Market area, we knew right away that we needed to try their authentic Khmer cuisine.


The unassuming old shophouse building was starting to get busy at around six in the evening. A young man was preparing the grill as we entered Khmer Kitchen. We scanned the interior and realized that we wanted to have a nice view whilst we’re dining. We went up to the second level and noticed the old school grand staircase, the one that you’d often see in old mansions. We settled on a table near the window and were given the menu. Me and my buddy got glasses of iced coffee (US$2.50) while we perused the food list.

Khmer Kitchen Restaurant Siem Reap
Next time we'll try the grilled fares at Khmer Kitchen
It wasn’t our first time in Siem Reap, the historic core of Cambodia. For the past four years that we’ve been having our annual two-month summer backpacking trips, we passed by the city twice (check here for discounted tours, transportation and activities in Siem Reap). For this year’s Same Same Summer Trip 2017, me and my buddy specifically chose to go back to some of the Southeast Asian countries that we’ve previously visited and took unfamiliar routes along the way. We tagged along our respective moms on the first leg of the trip in Malaysia (which made everything special) and went on with the rest of the journey to Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Khmer Kitchen Restaurant Siem Reap
Old school grand staircase
Our four-day stint in Siem Reap was geared towards the very essence of vacation. We had a lovely staycation at Victoria Angkor Resort and 1920 Hotel, and then spent a day for a temple tour to the forgotten ancient cities of Koh Ker and Beng Mealea. Evenings were spent at Pub Street wherein we enjoyed the 50-cent beers (yes, US Dollars are widely used in Cambodia) as we watched teeners with raging hormones revel all night long. It was a totally different way to experience Siem Reap beyond the grand Angkor temples.

Khmer Kitchen Restaurant Siem Reap
Siem Reap's Old Market Area as seen from Khmer Kitchen's window
After battling with varied choices for our meal that night, we veered towards local Khmer favorites; Fish Amok (US$5.50), Pork Lok Lak (US$5), and Deep-fried Pork Ribs (US$5). Serving time was average given that it was dinnertime. Nonetheless, the staff were all attentive to all our requests and needs.

Khmer Kitchen Restaurant Siem Reap
Iced Coffee (US$2.50)
The dishes landed on our table while I was enjoying my second glass of iced coffee. My eyes were glued on the Pork Lok Lak. I remember it vividly as I had this dish two years ago and all I could remember was how it was similar yet different from the typical rice meals in the Philippines. The difference I guess was on the pepper sauce. It added the right amount of kick which made it more appealing.

Cambodia Lok Lak
Pork Lok Lak (US$5)
Cambodian style fried lok lak with pepper sauce topped with fried egg
I was adamant at first to get pork amok, but as suggested, the fish amok is the most famous dish in Cambodia (like pork adobo in the Philippines). So yes, we got the fish amok and I was hooked since then!

The authentic steamed fish curry in banana leaves with coconut cream is divine. The spices were not overpowering the whole dish and the coco cream was just the perfect complement. I could order a cup of steamed rice and would just be fine with its sauce. I forgot about lok lak ever since.

Cambodia Amok
Fish Amok (US$5.50)
Coconut cream, amok paste, long bean, onion, noni leaf, egg
The last meal was chosen by my buddy for he missed pork after our two-week stint in Malaysia. Honestly, I didn’t think I would even try the pork ribs since I was blown away with the amok but when I was urged by my buddy to try it, I didn’t let it slip my fingers.

The marinated pork rib was oozing with flavors that I needed to ask for the menu to check out the description. It may seem odd to put together ginger and other spices but it worked all together pretty well. The bones were all that’s left to this glorious dish afterwards.

Khmer Kitchen Restaurant Siem Reap
Deep-fried Pork Ribs (US$5)
Deep-fried marinated pork ribs with oyster sauce, soy sauce, ginger, galangol, served with chili sauce
Aside from the fact that we had great time sampling some of the famous Khmer dishes at Khmer Kitchen, the laidback ambience of Siem Reap while having dinner was what really impressed on me during that meal. From the early night scenes as seen from the window, to the celebratory meal of locals on the next table; it truly felt that we were having an authentic Khmer experience together. And you're definitely not going to have this kind of feeling even if you pay heaps of money on an expensive Khmer restaurant here in the Philippines, if there’s any.


Khmer Kitchen
Mondul I, Sangkat Svay Dangkum,
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Contact Number: (+855) 12.763.468 | (+855) 12.349.501
Email Address:info@khmerkitchens.com





4 comments:

  1. Wow, that ambience! Good writing on this one, made me feel as if I was there :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Lakad Pilipinas! Cambodian Food and Filipino Food are so much alike in many ways :)

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