Fiscally responsible foodies, welcome once again to Post Weekend’s annual Cheap Eats guide, where we share some of our favourite sub-$5 dishes from across Phnom Penh. This year we’ve tried to add as many new entries as possible while keeping some of the classics for those who haven’t been in town that long. Bon appetit!
Nompang sandwiches, $1.50
Nompang is a trendy little fast-food outlet that’s taken the humble nompang Cambodian sandwich – normally dished out from handcarts – upmarket. Crusty baguette rolls packed with plenty of fresh salads and coriander, they come in omelette, black pepper chicken, roast pork (our favourite), lunchmeat and meatball varieties ranging in price from $1.50 to $2. Perfect as a big snack, two are enough to satisfy even the strongest hunger pangs.
Nompang, corner of streets 163 and 408.
Pork and Rice on Street 9, $1
Pork and rice is arguable Cambodia’s national dish and everyone has their own favourite place – but usually it’s got more to do with proximity to work or home than anything else. Our favourite, on Street 9 between Phsar Kabko and Sihanouk Boulevard, just happens to be pretty conveniently sited to the Post offices. The marinated pork is delicious and you get a slice of omelette, pickled veggies and a bowl of broth all for $1.
Pork and rice, Street 9.
Tinfi Chicken Rice hot pot lunch, $1.50
Every day at lunch time, Tinfi Chicken Rice offers their claypot special: $1.50 for a rotating roster of six dishes such as sour soup, curry or meat and vegetable stir-fry. But instead of serving them up cold, like many other Khmer lunch spots, each customer gets their own claypot to reheat the meal. With a free dessert thrown in, it’s proven a popular option for Phnom Penh’s budget-conscious students and workers.
Tinfi Chicken Rice, #75co Street 310.
Sach Ko Ang Jakak, 2,500 riel
At this boisterous sidewalk spot right off busy Norodom Avenue, 2,500 riel gets you a skewer of charred beef marinated in a mix of lemongrass, turmeric and galangal, garnished with a hefty amount of papaya, mini pickles and carrot shreds, all on a toasted baguette and drizzled with yellow ber, a concoction made from butter, sugar and egg.
Sach Ko Ang Jakak stand, corner of Norodom Avenue and Street 322 (across from the Taiwan Cooperative Bank).
CP Fried Chicken, 2,500 riel
The ubiquitous stalls around the city offer no-frills fried chicken. At 2,500 riel a pop for white or dark meat, it’s better than you’d probably think and pretty much identical to their global-chain brethren.
CP Fried Chicken, various locations.
Nom ku chhay, 1,000 riel
For greasy, fried goodness, check out the nom ku chhay (fried rice balls with chives and green onion) at this Street 109 stand. They are fried in a metal pan by a friendly old lady with two gold teeth. 1,000 riel a ball.
Nom ku chhay stand, #46 Street 109.
Chinese Noodle Restaurant dumplings, $1.50
The Chinese Noodle Restaurant has long been a much-loved favourite of expats, backpackers and locals alike. They may not be the best dumplings in town – depending on personal preference, of course – and the decor isn’t the nicest, but it’s often the first place newcomers are taken when they arrive, so it always has an easy familiarity that makes it a preferred option when deciding on a place to eat with friends. And if on your own, you’re almost always likely to find a friendly face there. Watch out for copycats though – amusingly, the owners have erected banners directing customers away from imitations.
Chinese Noodle Restaurant, #553 Monivong Boulevard.
Bay Kor Dot, $1
It is a rare thing to eat out of a cow-shaped hot plate, but at this street-side dive it is the standard serving method. The bay kor dot ($1) here is fantastic, slices of beef delivered sizzling with onions, chives and a freshly cracked egg, served with rice and a mug of iced tea. It lends itself to a quick feast, but make sure to scrape up the umami-flavoured juice and crispy egg bits left in the cast-iron cow before you pay the bill.
6Bay Kor Dor, #49Eo Street 118 (corner of street 61 near Central Market).
Eight Boat Noodles, 2,500 riel
The Eight Boat Noodle chain – which could soon rival Brown in its number of outlets – sells small bowls of Thai boat noodle soup, which have proven hugely popular in Malaysia and Singapore, and now Phnom Penh. They are only 2,500 riel, but you may need a few of them to fill you up.
Eight Boat Noodle has outlets at BKK1, Koh Pich, Mao Tse Toung Boulevard, Teuk Thla, Kromourn Sor, Stung Meanchey, Santhormuk and more.
Mumma’s Place lunch, $1
Recommended by Dana Langlois, the owner of Java Cafe and Gallery around the corner, this small, clean, family run eatery serves up a rotating selection of fresh and delicious dishes every day. Langlois particularly likes the fish ball soup. Note: The place is so popular, everything is generally eaten by 12:15pm, so get in early.
Mumma’s Place, Street 29 between Street 295 and Sihanouk Boulevard.
Started only a few weeks ago, the Instagram account instafoodkh is a handy resource for those seeking out new and interesting food to eat. We discovered several of this year’s Cheap Eats on there. Run by a foodie named Sok San who “regrams” photos posted with the #instafoodkh tag, each entry has details including price and location. Already the mouth-watering account has nearly 4,000 followers and more than a 100 posts, from freshwater snails to Taiwanese pancakes and market squid. “I only post the food that’s tasty and looks good on my Instagram,” San told us. “They’re not all street food. I post all different kinds of food here – some are expensive and some cheap.” He said among his current favourite cheap eats were the meatball buns next to Bak Tuk high school for 1,500 riel and boat noodle soup from various places for about 2,500 riel.
Find instafoodkh on Instagram or search for the #instafoodkh hashtag.
Wicked Wings Wednesday at Che Culo, $3
With its high-peaked roof, patterned tiles, cosy booths and friendly outdoor area, Che Culo is a stylish place for a nibble and a tipple. But while their food and drinks are good quality, you also pay a little more. That’s why their specials nights are such good value. Our favourite is Wicked Wings Wednesday, when, from 5pm, Chef Nicko and his crew dish up plates of sweet, spicy, sticky chicken wingettes for $3 to be washed down with $1 cans of Cambodia beer. Ridiculously delicious. And messy. Mama’s Meatball Mondays are pretty good value, too, with 50 cent meatballs all day served in a homemade tomato sauce.
Che Culo, #6b Street 302.
Yosaya Thai Food Pad Kapow with rice, $1.75
Just opened in April, Yosaya is a no-fuss little Thai place that serves up a range of standard, reasonably priced dishes. We haven’t had time to try out the whole menu, but the crispy porkbelly stir-fried with onions, topped with fresh Thai basil and slices of chilli and served with rice ($2) is delicious as is the pad kapow (minced meat with Thai basil and chilli) with rice ($1.75). Finally, Tom Yum Kung has a bit of competition.
Yosaya Thai Food, #79 Street 105 (behind Preah Yukunthor High School).
Tom yum chicken at Tom Yum Kung, $3.50
Long regarded as the best value Thai restaurant in Phnom Penh, Tom Yum Kung now has second outlet west of Russian Market. The decor’s a little bit less rustic, but the food is just as good. Despite the arrival of Yosaya, it’s still our go-to for tom yum chicken soup ($3.50) – super tasty.
Tom Yum Kung, #10 Street 278 and #59b Street 432.
Feel good coffee, $2.50
OK, this one is not technically food but it’s still a great bargain. Feel Good do the best espresso coffee in town, and for only $2.50 for a latte or flat white, it’s the best value too. Even better, they don’t charge anything for extra shots which is great for those who like their java with a bit more kick.
Feel Good Cafe, #79 Street 136 and Feel Good 2, #11b Street 29.
Warung Bali’s deep-fried tofu in chilli sauce, $2
Phnom Penh’s most famous Indonesian restaurant is still going strong after two decades and is as good a place for cheap Indonesian as ever. The vegetarian-friendly deep-fried tofu is particularly appetising – smothered in hot chilli sauce, it provides a gluttonous dose of protein and a burning hot mouth to boot. Care for something meatier? Try the beef served in traditional Balinese sauce ($3).
Warung Bali, #25Eo Street 178.
Chicken steak and rice at Lucky Seven, $2.90
Don’t let the greasy fast food fare fool you – amid the French fries and fried chicken sandwiches are some simple, savoury local dishes that provide a more sanitised version of what you’d find on the street. The marinated chicken steak and rice is particularly good, with a hint of Singaporean-style chicken rice in the flavour.
Lucky Seven, corner of Sothearos and Sihanouk boulevards.
Sang Vak, $2.05
For something completely different, try one of Battambang’s fishiest munchies. Little pink rectangles of solidified sour fish with the texture of spam are wrapped into lettuce leaves along with vermicelli noodles. The taco-like lettuce wrap is then doused with red pepper and peanut sauce. The result is a spicy delight which lacks the muddy taste that sometimes taints local river fish.
Sang Vak, #208 Street 146.
Eggplant at Nike
Once tucked away on a residential block off Street 63, Nike transitioned into the big time earlier this year when it relocated to the bustling intersection of Streets 29 and 308. Despite the menu reading like a giant bingo board of Italy-related tuck, the owners have no actual connection to Italy. As a result, both pizza and pasta can have a somewhat novel consistency. Opt instead for the aubergine dishes. $3 gets you a dish of thickly sliced aubergine, stringy cheese and tomato sauce. Fancy five cheese and meat options are also available – all for under $5. Portions are vast, and doggy bags very much the norm. Perfect hangover fare.
Nike, #11C Street 29.
Sumatra’s chicken rica, $3
The menu at this homey Indonesian eatery in the Russian Market area is chock-full of cheap, tropical delicacies. One of the stars of the show is the chicken rica, boneless meat braised in Indonesian spices and chilli garnished with tomato slices and lettuce for $3. Add rice and a saucer of sour, chili mush for 2,000 riel. We recommend that you don’t sit at a table near the moto parking area.
Sumatra Indonesian Restaurant, #35 Street 456.
Seaweed-fried rice at Mercy Restaurant, $2
Looking for seafood fried rice while staying purely veg? Among its diverse range of meatless options, Mercy Restaurant offers a plate of fried rice with seaweed for only $2.
Mercy Restaurant, corner of Streets 51 and 222.
Falafel at Besto’s, $2.75
Although Besto’s may look like your typical Indian restaurant at first glance, Rajan the chef makes a surprisingly mean falafel wrap that wouldn’t be out of place at a first-rate Jerusalem food stall. All manner of vegetarian cuisine are also represented at low prices, from veggie burgers to palak paneer. Tempted by some of the other meatless goodies on the menu? Try the pav bhaji curry ($3) or potato and lentil burger ($1.50). Don’t be put off by Besto’s audacious attempt to conquer the known vegetarian world; as Rajan told Post Weekend, herbivore chefs have a knack for all things veggie, much like the blind have heightened senses of hearing. “Vegetarianism is our disability,” he quipped.
Besto’s, #74-76 Street 126 (near the corner of Monivong Boulevard).
Ramen at the Ramen Kiosk, $3.25
Among the cheapest Japanese options in the capital is an unassuming ramen joint on Street 63. While it may lack the zest of some of its fancier counterparts, the Ramen Kiosk adequately serves your umami cravings. Dishes come hot or cold, spicy or mild, all for the same price.
The Ramen Kiosk, corner of Streets 63 and 360.
Rice porridge at 294 Restaurant, $2.50
For many foreigners in the Kingdom, who have never developed a taste for congealed blood, it can be frustrating to buy a bowl of steaming porridge (known as bor bor in Khmer) to find that unappetising dark red lump at the bottom. Fortunately, a small Vietnamese restaurant in BKK1 provides an excellent bowl of that simple dish minus any uwanted surprises. Served with either fish or chicken.
294 Restaurant, corner of Streets 63 and 294.
Masala dosa at Dosa Corner, $2.50
Amid Phnom Penh’s plethora of cheap Indian options, Dosa Corner has perhaps the most authentic edge, right down to the lack of air conditioning and the fact your water comes in metal cups. As the name suggests, the speciality here is the dosa – huge, fermented crepes made from rice batter and black lentils. The $2.50 masala dosa is a filling lunch time option, with a spiced potato stuffing and dipping sauces on the side.
Dosa Corner, #5E Street 51.
Shawarma at Taste of the Middle East, $3
This hole-in-the-wall cooks up dishes just like your mother used to – if you happen to be from Mesopotamia. The shawarma is among the best – and cheapest – available in the city, while other Arabic sandwiches including sish taukh ($3) and beef kebab wraps ($4) are also on offer.
Taste of the Middle East, #Eo35 Street 19.
Noodle House red peanut noodle soup, $3
Set in a classic French-era building in the old Chinese Quarter, this no-fuss restaurant ladles out a range of reasonably priced Southeast Asian dishes. Our pick is the flavoursome and filling red peanut noodle soup, which comes across like a soupey, noodley massaman curry ($3).
Noodle House, corner of streets 130 and 5.
Kimbap at Sweet and Spicy, $3
A cute little place with an orange painted interior, fake grass lawn out front and white picket fence, Sweet and Spicy can be found across the road from the fire station on Street 360. It’s not nearly the best Korean in town, but the kimbap is a big meal for not much: You get two long nori-style rolls filled with veggies and either beef, cheese or tuna plus miso soup, some picked radish and kimchi all for $3. Filling and nourishing.
Sweet and Spicy, #15F Street 360.
Daal Tadka from Sher-E-Punjab, $3
Sher-E-Punjab’s $3 daal tadka yellow lentil curry is mildly spiced with ginger, garlic and whole red chilly and comes in a big enough tub that if you get some rice on the side ($1) it’s enough for two.
Sher-E-Punjab, #16, Street 130 (off Riverside), and Sher-E-Punjab II #13 Street 258.
Pasta night at The Willow, $3.50
Each week on Thursday at The Willow is cheap pasta night, when the chef cooks up a couple of different pastas, garlic bread and salads for a bargain price of $3.50.
The Willow, #1 Street 21.
The Duck’s eggs benedict, $3.50
Considering the Duck’s upmarket decor – shiny floors, big mirrors, warm but subdued lighting – the breakfasts are surprisingly reasonably priced. For only $3.75 you get a couple of soft-poached eggs on rye toast all smothered in creamy hollandaise. An extra $1 and you can add a couple of strips of bacon or cured salmon. A great start way to a weekend.
The Duck, #49 Sothearos Boulevard.
Eleven One Kitchen stir-fried beef with broccoli, $3
Starting in a small shophouse south of Russian Market, Eleven One Kitchen immediately proved popular with the local office workers for their cheap, tasty and fresh Khmer food. So much so that they soon moved to larger premises. Almost the entire menu is under $5, and it’s all pretty good value, but our pick is the stir-fried beef with broccoli for $3 – nutritious and tasty. Pro tip: They also do delivery via Mealtemple.
Eleven One Kitchen, #37 Street 123.
Cadillac $5 Fridays
All main meals at Cadillac are only $5 on Fridays. Southern fried chicken breast and veggies? $5. Chilli cheese burger with fries or salad? $5. A huge slab of cheesy lasagna? $5. Chicken cordon bleu? You get the idea. Fantastic value. If that’s not cheap enough for you, they also do bolognese on Wednesdays for $3.50.
Cadillac Bar and Grill, #219E Sisowath Quay.
Meal deal at Chicky, $5
Cooked slowly, but served quickly – the chickens from the rotisserie ovens at Chicky’s two Phnom Penh branches are hard to fault. Skin crackling and swimming in juice, the plump imported birds are served quartered, accompanied by potatoes cooked inside the oven, and a side salad that cuts through the fatty meat. All this for $5, with a drink thrown in. Bonus tip: given the high numbers of bachelors who stop by the rotisserie ovens on a seemingly nightly basis, Chicky definitely has untapped potential as a lonely hearts hook-up spot.
Chiky, #165 Street 63 and #15 Street 29.
Sweet and tender simmered pork at Ninja, $4.50
The sweet and tender simmered pork ($4.50) at this six-month-old Japanese hole-in-the-wall gets you some bang for your buck: a generous concoction of chunky, fatty and wonderfully delicate pork belly pieces simmered in a soy sauce-based broth for an hour, served with a hard-boiled egg, chives, thick turnip slices and a dollop of ochre mustard in a beautiful ceramic bowl.
Ninja Japanese Dining, #54 Street 454 (between Streets 135 and 123)
Brooklyn Pizza’s cheesecake, $4
Brooklyn Pizza’s owner claims his cheesecake – creamy, sweet with just the right amount of bite – is the best in Phnom Penh and we’ve yet to hear anyone make a credible counterclaim. At $4 a slice, no one would call it cheap, but we make the argument that for the amount of indulgence you get, it’s actually pretty good value. Oh, and you can add blueberry, oreo or passionfruit toppings for an extra 1,000 riel.
Brooklyn Pizza, #20 Street 123.
Show Box’s Chicken Schnitzel Burger, $5
Head down to this bar and alternative arts space near the genocide museum for a tasty $5 chicken schnitzel burger at 6pm and you’ll be just in time for the daily half-hour of free beer to wash it down.
Show Box, #11 Street 330.
ARTillery Cafe, Chimmichurri Lentil Sub, $4
The trendy, hidden gem that is the ARTillery Cafe prides itself on its health-conscious cuisine. There is lots of organic frou-frou here, the menu peppered with such ingredients as quinoa, beetroot, maca and vegan mayo. For the frugal vegetarian who doesn’t want to sacrifice quality for a bargain, the Chimmichurri Lentil Sub ($4) is a nice option: Argentinean garlic and herb sauce, French lentils, cucumber ribbons, roma tomatoes on a warmed soft baguette with a side salad.
ARTillery Cafe, alley way of Street 240½, just east of cross Street 19.
Barbecued oysters at Heng Heng Oyster, $4 for 10
Either grilled or raw, the oysters at this little Khmer eatery are served the local way: smothered with herbs and hot sauce. Heng Heng is well-known among locals as a safe bet to satisfy your oyster cravings. Expect the place to be packed in the early evening hours.
Heng Heng Oyster, corner of Norodom Boulevard and Street 154.
Buffalo Sister, roast beef sandwich
This quaint Russian Market eatery is for the carnivores. Their meat, all slow-cooked for 24-hours, is wonderfully juicy and soars when enjoyed with the homemade gravy, a condiment sadly rare in the Kingdom (and rarely done well). Order the Australian roast beef sandwich ($4.95) with the signature gravy to satisfy both taste buds and wallet.
Buffalo Sister, #55d Street 456.
Sesame Noodle Bar’s sesame house noodle, $4
For a filling meal surrounded by cat-inspired art, order the Sesame House Noodle ($4) at this Russian Market favourite. A heap of chilled veggies and noodles served with a fantastic peanut sauce in a monstrous bowl. Don’t discount the veggie noodles. Add $1 for gyoza.
Sesame Noodle Bar, #9 Street 460.
Deep Fried Shrimp at Asmak 81, $4
This Cham-owned Daun Penh eatery serves a wide array of Cambodian cuisine combined with popular Malaysian flavours. With no pork on the menu, Asmak 81 compensates with a vast array of seafood to cater for both local Chams and visiting Muslims. The deep-fried shrimp served with sweet and sour sauce is among the tastiest options, as is the sea bass ($5).
Asmak 81, #20ABEo Street 154.
For posh food without the price tag, go veggie. Positioned down a quiet alleyway all of its own, Corn is a romantic spot serving wholesome dishes almost none of which cost more than $5. Their tiled, secluded veranda is a winning bet for a health-conscious dinner date.
The Corn, #58 Street 268.
Eggs Florentine at Java Cafe
Java Cafe is probably already on your list of go-to venues for meetings and catch-ups over lunch with friends, so we’ll reserve our praise for flagging up the menu’s often overlooked breakout star: the $4.75 eggs Florentine. With spinach, bagel, a commendable hollandaise sauce and an apple salad that serves to perfectly balance the dish’s flavours, it’ll lift even the most tedious working lunches.
Java Cafe and Gallery, #56 Sihanouk Boulevard.
Salsa cabana’s taco platter, $4
A Japanese Mexican joint may seem a little bizarre, but this little gem offers the only TexMex-style taco platter for under $5 in the city. While Salsa Cabana doesn’t reinvent the culinary wheel of Mexico, it gets the job done much cheaper than the competition. Be warned: the hot sauce is not for the faint of heart, even for veterans of the hottest curries of Thailand’s infamously spicy northeast.
Salsa Cabana, #46 Street 288.
Lucky Deli Discount
Lastly, here’s a little Phnom Penh pro tip: Many items in Lucky Supermarket’s deli – including all the sweet bakery treats – are half price after 8pm.
Lucky Supermarkets, various locations.
This popular spot right around the corner from the FCC and previously known as Lucky Pho makes some of Phnom Penh’s tastiest noodle soup. The raw meat and fat brisket pho for $2.50 comes with heaps of thick slices of beef and wide, flat rice noodles in an aromatic broth. The garnish plate is ample for flavour customising.
Special Pho, #11 Street 178, near the riverside.
Off to the side of the towering Sihanouk statue on Sihanouk Boulevard is this hole-in-the-wall spot plainly named “Pho”. You don’t have to order here. Just sit and a bowl of high-quality, tangy noodle soup ($3), with hefty pieces of lean beef, will be placed in front of you. They also sell phone cards.
Pho, #62e1 Sihanouk Boulevard.
Pho De Paris
Pho de Paris has a rep for having the best pho in town, and for good reason. There’s only one type, beef pho, and it sits at the number one spot on their massive menu. It’s $3.20 a bowl, a bit pricey for pho, but you’re also paying for the upscale surrounds.
Pho de Paris Restaurant, 260 Preah Monivong Boulevard.
This Monivong dive serves up pho in a fashion more fitting to how the purists might prefer it. Think fly-ridden and with filthy fans. The menu is merely a scrapbook of food pics and while there are no prices listed, we can tell you it’ll cost $2 for a sizeable bowl of pork or beef pho. The rice noodles are spaghetti-like, the broth flavourful and nuanced. Beware the mercilessly hot chili slices.
Pho Trung, #825sd Monivong Boulevard near Street 508.
There are options aplenty at this Saigon-based chain, and while we’re not sure this broth-less dish strictly counts as pho, the item listed as “pho with fish sauce” ($3.80) gets you a lot for a little. A generous helping of grilled pork, a cut-up fried spring roll, cucumber shreds, fried shallots, pickled carrot and a plop of white gelatinous fish sauce with a side of peanut sauce. Mix and enjoy.
Pho 24, Sothearos Boulevard near Preah Sihanouk Boulevard.