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ILLUSTRATION: DAVID PINHO
ILLUSTRATION: DAVID PINHO

The city’s top 30 dining deals for budget gourmands

With slurp-worthy noodles on every corner, top-notch international chefs, and late-night dining aplenty, Phnom Penh is a city for foodies – you just have to know where to look. Whether you’re an adventurous diner, a fried-food fanatic, or a pauper with expensive tastes, we’ve got 30 of the city’s best dishes for your budget.

The beef rendang at Warung Bali comes with a coconut curry paste.
The beef rendang at Warung Bali comes with a coconut curry paste. Scott Howes

$5 and under

Beef Rendang at Warung Bali
Cheery staff serve up fine Indonesian staples like gado gado, fried chilli squid, nasi goreng and satay chicken skewers, but it’s the beef rendang that has us returning time and time again. Melt-in-your-mouth chunks of beef are slow cooked with a nutty, coconut infused curry paste with just the right amount of chilli. At only $3.50, it comes with a big plate of rice and is best washed down with a sweet, icy tamarind juice ($1.50). #25E St 178, Riverside area. 10am-9pm

Burrito at Brown Cafe
One might assume a meal from popular coffee chain Brown would be a costly affair, or at least a lacklustre one. Not so. Breakfasts hover around $3.50 and have a Latin flavour: Spanish omelettes, heuvos rancheros, and our pick for just $3.25 – a lightly grilled tortilla packed with creamy scrambled eggs, chives, potato, cheese and onion with a side of Tabasco drizzled tomato salsa and jalapeño aioli. BKK1, Riverside and Tuol Kork. 6.30am-9pm

Bratwurst at Meta House
The city’s German-Cambodian Cultural Centre features a restaurant with a variety of German dishes. Among them is the Berlin curried sausages and fries, which consists of large sausages drenched in a tangy spiced gravy for $4.50. #37 Sothearos Blvd, Tonle Bassac. 3.30pm-10pm

Cold noodles at Sesame Noodle Bar
Style and culinary substance are the underpinnings of Sesame Noodle Bar, where for $4.75 you can chow down on a bowl of ice-cold noodles and a side, such as a pillow-soft pork bun. #9 St 460, Russian Market area. 11.30am-2.30pm and 5.00pm-9.30pm, closed Monday

Buffalo meat strips cure in the sun on street 19. By dusk they will be sizzling on charcoal bbq and served with salad.
Buffalo meat strips cure in the sun on street 19. By dusk they will be sizzling on charcoal bbq and served with salad. Scott Howes

Japanese pancakes at Spring Vale
The low-priced mains at Japanese establishment Spring Vale mean you may have to queue for a table, but the deftly assembled shrimp okonomiyaki (Japanese savoury pancake, $4) is worth the wait. Other Japanese classics such as yakisoba and donburi are also available for less than $5. #27 St 450, Russian Market area. 11.30am-3pm, closed Saturday and Sunday

Chorizo hash at Alma Cafe
The breakfast burritos, chorizo hash and changing daily specials at Alma have earned this Mexican joint a loyal following. At just $4 the breakfast sets are an absolute steal, and include the dish of your choice, fruit juice and bottomless tea/coffee. Lunch sets cost $5.#43A St 123/454, Russian Market area. 7am–2pm

$5 pizza at Pizza Five
Don’t let the name or the creepy neon signage fool you: there’s nothing dingy about this slice. The crust is flaky, the topping light and flavoursome – just like they do it in Rome. Plus, they deliver until late. #81 St 130, Riverside area. 11.30am-1.30am Tuesday-Sunday, 5pm-1.30am Monday

Chicken breast at Dragon House
The greatest. Peppercorn gravy, chicken breast stuffed with cheese and topped with bacon and potato mash for $5. #11Eo St 130, Riverside area. 9am-11pm

Lunch special at Himajin
Set in an old Japanese shophouse, Himajin has a charming feel and a delicious, fresh menu. A $5 lunch set offers miso soup, pickled vegetables, and a main dish of anything from breaded pork cutlets to tofu or grilled mackerel. Comes with rice. #131 St 200. 11.30am-2pm and 5.30pm-10pm

At Central Market, vendors prepare fried desserts.
At Central Market, vendors prepare fried desserts. Scott Howes

Burrito at La Cita
The “small” is relatively enormous and comes in at $5. It goes up to $5.40 if you want both sour cream and cheese. #13 St 282, Riverside. 9am-10pm

Sandwiches at Buffalo Sister
Roasted carvery sandwiches are the mainstay at Buffalo Sister, with both hot and cold cuts on offer at $4.25. The hot roast beef sandwich is served with gravy, while its cold cut counterpart is served with horseradish or honey mustard. #128 St 19, Riverside area. 11am-7.30pm, closed Sunday.

Katy Peri’s Peri Peri Chicken and Pizza
In the midst of the hot dog stands and grilled pork joints, and in the heart of Street 51’s nightlife district, is a cook with a wood-fired oven on the sidewalk. A large pepperoni or veggie Italiano pizza goes for $5. Corner of St 172 and St 51

The ubiquitous gui chai (or chive cakes) are on of our top cheap eats in the city.
The ubiquitous gui chai (or chive cakes) are on of our top cheap eats in the city. Scott Howes

$3 and under

The Sushi Bar
With six locations in Ho Chi Minh City, this Vietnam-based sushi chain arrived in Phnom Penh last year. The cheapest rolls, which are vegetarian, start at $1.80 for six pieces, while sake maki goes for $2.50. Pricier options also available, with the house roll costing $7.80. #2D St 302. 11am to 10pm.

Pad Thai at Ayotaya Thai
Our Thai friends swear by this hole-in-the-wall eatery. The decor might leave something to be desired, but portions of pad Thai and other classic mains are delicious and served up for between $3 to $3.50. #58, St 302. 11am-9pm

Aubergine at Sumatra
The aubergine balado (served in a spicy chilli sauce, $1.50) at Sumatra could be enough to turn anyone veggie, but for those hungry for meat there are satay skewers aplenty. #35 St 456, Russian Market area. 11am-8pm

Fried bananas sizzle in the pan.
Fried bananas sizzle in the pan. AFP

Chicken Rice at Barn Barn
Barn Barn Singapore Chicken Rice offers more than just its signature Hainanese chicken with rice. There’s southeast Asian staples such as fried rice and noodles, and at just $2-$3 for any main dish you’ll have plenty of spare change to pick up some sticky rice cakes filled with shredded coconut. #174 St 454, Russian Market area, 8am-5pm, closed Sunday.

Rice-paper roll plate at Central Market
It’s a challenge to make all the fresh mint, veggies and pork fit into the delicate rice paper of this roll-your-own platter at Central Market’s bánh xèo shop, but the task is a delicious one. Wet the quarter-sized rice paper sheets in the sweet fish sauce before cramming them with bánh hỏi noodles, a barbecued nem nuong pork skewer, herbs, cucumber and pineapple. All for 5,000 riel. Shop G 139, Central Market food area

Mama bun at Tea Club
A glazed, buttery pastry bun filled with sticky, sweet barbecued pork and beans, this baked version of the classic Chinese steamed pork bun is the best thing going at the reliable Tea Club. Two of the mangosteen-sized delicacies are filling enough. Best washed down with a steaming cup of jasmine tea. Corner of St 63 and St 306. Three for $2.80. Open open 6.30am-9pm.

Himajin’s Japanese lunch set comes with miso soup, rice and a main.
Himajin’s Japanese lunch set comes with miso soup, rice and a main. Scott Howes

Dried buffalo on Street 19
A favourite Friday night beer snack. Air-dried and marinated with garlic and spices, then barbecued over a grill until salty and crisp, sach krobei is perfect with a cold Anchor and a hundred times tastier than its hick cousin, jerky. A dish of sach krobei comes with sweet dipping sauce and a plate of carrot, cucumber and green banana. The meat is very chewy, so tear off in small strips to avoid jaw cramp. $2.50. St 19 near St 240

Dumplings at Zeppelin
Street 51 staple Zeppelin Cafe is better known for its 70s rock vinyl and charismatic Taiwanese DJ than its food, but its pork and green leek dumplings – served boiled or fried – really are very good, drunk or sober. Homemade and dished out by the dozen, the lightly oiled Chinese-style dumplings come with chilli soy vinegar and disposable chopsticks, for everyone who wants a share. $1.50. #109c St 51

Dumplings and noodles at Chinese Noodle Restaurant
Fresh pulled noodles are constantly prepared from scratch at this hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant. The service is gruff and the decor sterile, but their prices for homemade Chinese dishes cannot be beat, with a dozen dumplings at $1.50 and fried noodles with beef costing $2. #553, Monivong Blvd.

Tea Club’s glazed ‘mama buns’, encased in flaky Chinese pastry and filled with sweet pork, are a winner.
Tea Club’s glazed ‘mama buns’, encased in flaky Chinese pastry and filled with sweet pork, are a winner. Scott Howes

Dosas at Dosa Corner
This well-known South Indian restaurant serves some of the cheaper Indian dishes in BKK1, with a chicken samosa costing $2. Not luxurious, but wholesome food and friendly staff. #5E St 51, BKK1. 10am-9.30pm

Singaporean Laksa at Asian Spice
Opened in 2006 by Singaporean chef Gary Loy, everything at this brightly lit restaurant comes in at under $2.80. A real steal is their curry laksa, one of the city’s best. Loy’s soup isn’t marred by too much coconut milk and is full of spices, coriander, juicy prawns, fish cake, eggs, bean sprouts, noodles and a fiery kick for just $2.70. #79 St 111. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 6.30am-9pm.

Spring rolls and noodles at Russian Market
Deep fried spring rolls filled with taro are dished up alongside nests of rice noodles at this Russian Market Stalwart. A plate will set you back just 5,000 riel. Head to the stalls that line the Russian Market perimeter on St 440, open around 9am-4pm

Buffet at Relax
Deceptively simple, Relax’s $2.50 buffet – not available on the weekend – lays out a variety of reliable dishes. White and fried rice, morning glory, fish soups and a changing assortment of heartier, meatier entrees. Dessert included. Sothearos (St. 3), corner of Sihanouk (St. 274). Open 6am-9pm - breakfast buffet 6.30am-9.30am, lunch buffet 11am-1pm

A sugary dessert at Central Market.
A sugary dessert at Central Market. Scott Howes

$1 and under

Bobor sach moan at Psar Kapko
Comfort food on the run, a steaming bowl of chicken bobor (soupy rice porridge) at a small plastic table in street 9’s string of bobor vendors has the power to satisfy both your taste buds and that head cold looming over. A warming mix of chicken and pork stock, shrimp, mushrooms, topped with fresh ginger. This strip is but one place to purchase it from. 4,000 riel. St 9, Psar Kapko

Chive cake on Street 178
A tasty entree for shop 23’s roaring trade on lot cha, or a delicious snack on its own, these gui chai - or ‘vegetable cakes’- are made with glutinous rice flour dough and quickly deep fried. Break open the crunchy, oily exterior however, and you’ll find a steaming parcel of juicy green garlic chives. Subtle and more-ish. 1,500 riel. #23 St 178

Free snacks at Elephant Bar
Technically a drink must be purchased in order to gain access to the above-par snacks at Raffles’ Elephant Bar, but few would find that an unwelcome expense. Happy Hour lasts from 4pm to 9pm, during which the excellent, floral-embellished cocktails are half price and the exotic snack boxes are purveyed: taro and plantain crisps, kaffir lime roasted nuts, salsa and wasabi peas. Raffles Hotel Le Royal, #92 Rukhak Vithei Daun Penh, Wat Phnom area

An assortment of rice flour and tapioca sweets, for sale at a market.
An assortment of rice flour and tapioca sweets, for sale at a market. Scott Howes

Fried bananas on Sothearos’ street stalls
Come mid-afternoon, these stalls selling crunchy taro, banana, and salted fried potatoes, seem to sprout all around the city. By the corner of Sothearos Boulevard is our favourite – rows of crispy, golden battered bananas. The sweet, ripe fruit is flattened and then slathered with a rice flour batter and sprinkling of black sesame seeds, before it is dropped to deep-fry in a vat of hot vegetable oil. The texture is oily but deliciously sweet. Around 500 riel each. Corner of St 9 and St 294. Open all day with many stalls setting up around 2pm.

Khmer hot pot at Ly Houng Soup
This lively corner, a few blocks south of Sihanouk close to Tuol Sleng, is heaving with young locals after dusk – and they’re all here for chhnang pleung: bowls of sweet, aromatic beef soup ladled from each table’s bubbling hot pot, which diners load with thin strips of beef, noodles, beef balls enoki mushrooms, vegetables, leafy greens and other delights. Ly Huong’s heady broth is simmered, à la Vietnamese phở, in an enormous cauldron all day and by night is enjoyed as an especially flavoursome - and affordable - group dining activity. Master Suki, eat your heart out. Soup for six people is just 25,000 riel. Corner of Street 288 and St 113. Open from around 5pm every day.

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nhammm's picture

Great info for lovers of budget dining. Big thanks from the folks at www.nhammm.com for the tip!

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