Kep & Kampot

In terms of global cuisine, Cambodian food is, in my opinion, seriously underrated. Cambodian food has the same culinary roots as it’s Thai neighbours, but with less of the heat. When the Portuguese brought over chillies in the 16th century, it became an integral part of Thai food culture, while it didn’t influence Khmer cuisine in quite the same way.

Kampot

Dishes like fish amok or beef lok lak are delicious, but relatively unknown outside the region. They are seriously under appreciated, and if you do ever have the chance to try them, you should.

Rusty Keyhole, Kampot

A two hours drive from the capital, Kampot province is home to the Kampot pepper. Kampot, you could argue, along with the neighbouring province of Kep, is the Lyon of Cambodia – the gastronomic capital of the country.

Kep and Kampot are a foodie’s paradise – with rich spices, deliciously fresh seafood, and, inexplicably, home to the BEST RIBS I’VE EVER HAD.

Rusty Keyhole, KampotRusty Keyhole, Kampot

I was in the region for three days, and managed to make it to the Rusty Keyhole twice for their ribs. I’d like to point out that I am usually not a fan of ribs at all – I don’t like barbecue sauce, and gnawing at bones isn’t usually my thing. Usually.

Rusty Keyhole, Kampot

The Phnom Penh Post rated the ribs at the Rusty Keyhole as the best in Cambodia. I, however, rate them as the best in the world. The sauce was perfect – not too sweet, not too sickly, just right – and the meat was succulent, falling off the bone and divine. I am still dreaming about these ribs, three weeks on.

rusty keyhole

For those who dare brave it, they challenge diners to eat a whole ‘Dino-Rib’ (1kg of ribs). Those who accept, and succeed, get a free dessert and a photo up on the wall of fame. There’s also a hilarious wall of shame for those who fail miserably. I didn’t take them up on the challenge, but if I could eat a kilo of anything in one sitting, it would be these ribs.

Rusty Keyhole: 5 Stars (5 / 5)

Kep Crab MarketKepKep

There was no shortage of things to do during a trip to Kep – like going to Rabbit Island, just a short boat ride away, and going up to Bokor Palace and Casino, an abandoned French-colonial resort on top of a mountain. It’s all beautiful, eerie, and somewhat magical.

Kep

Dining in Kep was also a magical experience. Go down to the crab market at sunset, to enjoy fresh crab served with a delicious Kampot pepper and lime juice sauce.

We went to So Kheang, one of many establishments adjacent to the crab market. Once we gave our orders, our waitress would wade out into the ocean and retrieve the crabs fresh from the baskets.

You can get the crab served in different ways, but from experience, getting it steamed rather than grilled or fried is the way to go. For anything else, I’d recommend the latter, but for crab you want it to retain its juicy flavour and texture.

Kep Crab MarketKep Crab

So Kheang, and the other establishments alongside the crab market will get you a few crabs each for around $7. They are standard, no-frills type places, but often have a stunning view of the ocean and the food is simply incredible.

Kep Crab MarketSo Kheang Crab So Kheang Crab

So Kheang 5 Stars (5 / 5)

Kep Sailing Club

Another place to try in Kep is the Sailing Club. Try and get a table for sunset (it’s worth booking), and the cocktails are really enjoyable, and the view is simply stunning. The Sailing Club has a great atmosphere, but is let down by the food slightly – with such a good view, and such great cocktails, it’s such a shame that the quality of the food doesn’t compare to the cheap and cheerful joints a stones’ throw away. However, if you’re looking for a romantic setting, the Knai Bang Chatt Sailing Club would be a great place to go (and the desserts there are fabulous).

Kep Sailing ClubKep Sailing Club

Sailing Club 3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

The Rusty Keyhole can be found by the riverfront in Kampot.

So Kheang can be found next to the Crab Market in Kep – 092 254 683; 097 253 9186.

The Kep Sailing Club (Knai Bang Chatt) can be found at Phum Thmey Sangkat Prey Thom, 989, Cambodia.

La Table Khmere – Cambodian Cooking Class

One of the highlights of my last visit to Phnom Penh was the cooking class I did, booked through Frizz, a restaurant on Street 240. I had a blast at my last class, but was keen to see what else was out there. Although the food I’d made last time was delicious, the cooking class was up on a hot roof, covered in tarp, and it was hot.

2014-12-25 La Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom PenhLa Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom PenhLa Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom Penh

So when I heard about La Table Khmere, I was intrigued, but the air-conditioned kitchen was what really sold it to me.

La Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom PenhLa Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom Penh

La Table Khmere has two classes a day, a morning one commencing at 9am, and an afternoon one at 3pm. The morning one includes a trip to the market, and is a dollar more than the afternoon class. For me, the choice is a no-brainer, and so we set off for Street 278 bright and early to hit BKK market.

La Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom PenhLa Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom PenhLa Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom Penh

BKK market, like all markets in Phnom Penh is a shock for the senses – the smells, colours and sensations in particular. The highlight of this trip for me was picking up some shrimp paste and seeing coconut being dessicated by a machine.

La Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom PenhLa Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom Penh

Back in the air-conditioned cool of the kitchen, we were set to work – chopping, grinding, boiling and squeezing until we had our three courses.

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The first course was a green mango salad – made with shredded mango, dried shrimp, carrots, chillies, shallots, basil leaves, peanuts and chicken knorr powder. The mangoes give the dish a tart sourness, which goes well with the creaminess of the peanuts and sweetness of the carrots.

green mango salad, La Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom Penh

The main, like last time, was fish amok – the national dish of Cambodia. A coconut milk-based curry made with chillies, keffir lime leaves and galangal, my fish amok was delicious. The curry differs from what we in the West might be used to – made with an egg, it is steamed and becomes almost like a souffle.

La Table Khmere Cooking Class
fish amok, La Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom Penh

The third and final course was a dessert known as Chek Ktis, a sweet coconut jelly. I loved the flavour of this dessert, particularly the sweetened coconut milk, but wasn’t a fan of the gelatinous texture.

La Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom PenhLa Table Khmere, Cooking Class, Phnom Penh

The cooking class at La Table Khmere was really enjoyable, in a lovely setting with charming instructors. It’s definitely more of a slick operation than the one at Frizz, though I did prefer some of the dishes at Frizz, especially the dessert. The Frizz class was definitely the ‘rougher, backpacker’ option – if you can handle the heat, and the longer hours then it’s definitely worth considering. But if you are up for a more leisurely class, in a nicer setting and at a lower cost, then La Table Khmere is the class for you.

The morning class was $20, and La Table Khmere can be located at 11E, Street 278, Phnom Penh.

4 Stars (4 / 5)

Artillery – Eating Clean in Phnom Penh

With all the fresh produce and incredible fruit you can find in the markets of Phnom Penh, it’s quite easy to eat healthily – but I was in Cambodia over the Christmas season, and with all the usual Christmas treats combined with tropical cocktails I wasn’t feeling particularly tiptop.

Artillery, Phnom PenhArtillery, Phnom PenhArtillery, Phnom Penh

Enter ARTillery cafe – calls of ‘healthy’, ‘organic’, ‘homemade’, and, of course, ‘free wifi’ drew me down a charming little alley on Street 240 (note: in the same alley you can find Public House, Bar Sito and Alley Cafe). Artillery is a teal-coloured mecca of superfoods, juices and all manner of clean-eating. Vegans, health fanatics and coeliacs rejoice, as Artillery Cafe will have something for you.

Hummus, Artillery, Phnom PenhVitamin Vitalizer, Artillery, Phnom Penh

I ordered a Vitamin Vitalizer juice (carrot, ginger, lime and apple), and grazed on some homemade hummus as I waited for my lunch companion. I’m pretty particular about my hummus, and I was pleased with Artillery’s offering – even more pleased by the stacked vegetables.

Hummus, Artillery, Phnom Penh

My friend ordered the Phnom Penher smoothie – a blend of dragonfruit, lemongrass, ginger, lime and honey, which left me with drink envy for the rest of the meal. It’s not the prettiest of smoothies, but my god is it delicious.

Phnom Penher, Artillery Cafe

For my main, I went for the raw pizza, as everything on the raw menu was gluten-free (as well as dairy-free, sugar-free and meat-free). My raw pizza consisted of sun-dried tomatoes and nut cheese on a flax and almond crust, topped with some assorted greens. It was crisp, sharp and refreshing – but nothing at all like a pizza – I think of it more as a crispbread.

Raw Pizza, Artillery, Phnom PenhDSC01244

My friend went for a seasonal special – a brown rice bowl topped with kombu, local vegetables, sesame seeds and cabbage.

Brown Rice Bowl, Artillery, Phnom Penh

For my next visit, I’m really keen to try the breakfast menu – gluten-free pancakes, muesli with a Clean Green (apple, mint, spinach) sounds right up my street.

For fresh juice and a guilt-free dining experience you can’t beat Artillery for their vast selection. But for those who don’t consider a meal complete without some meat (like all the men in my family) then Artillery might not be the place for you.

ARTillery cafe can be found on Street 240 1/2 laneway, near St 19
behind Wat Botum, near the Royal Palace, or at their second location on Street 278 #13B, near St 63, close to Wat Lanka, behind Lucky Market Sihanouk.

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

The Common Tiger, Phnom Penh

Happy 2015! It has been an age since I last posted – after Christmas I was off to Kep and Kampot, Phuket and Koh Phi Phi for New Year’s Eve then back to the UK (after I stopped off at Hong Kong). Blogging had to take a backseat while I got back into the swing of things, but I’m excited to be back in the swing of things.

The Common Tiger, Phnom Penh

I’ve definitely had the post-holiday blues since I’ve been back in the UK, and looking back on the photos I took at The Common Tiger hasn’t made it any easier.

The Common Tiger, Phnom Penh

My visit to the capital was fleeting, but I managed to get to The Common Tiger twice during my visit – the first time for lunch, the second time to sample the tasting menu I’d been hearing so much about. Each visit was an absolute delight – each dish, course or cocktail so carefully considered, each plate was a work of art. It didn’t just look pretty either – the expert use of combining locally sourced ingredients and flavours to create something new, described as ‘progressively Asian‘ – ensures that they’ve really got fusion cuisine spot on at The Common Tiger.

The Common Tiger, Phnom Penh

The decor is minimal and effortlessly cool, a lovely space and atmosphere that doesn’t distract from the main attraction – the menu.

Lunch

Beetroot gin cocktail, Common Tiger Phnom Penh

My first visit to The Common Tiger was for lunch. We booked ahead, although we didn’t need to (lunchtime on a Tuesday – does anyone anywhere need to book a table for that time?). I had a gin cocktail with some kind of beetroot in it, if I recall correctly – followed by a duck curry, which looked too beautiful that I almost didn’t want to eat it. But of course I did, and it was exquisite – the duck was perfectly balanced – just the right amount of juicy flesh, the skin perfectly crisp.

Duck Curry, The Common Tiger, Phnom Penh Duck Curry, The Common Tiger, Phnom Penh

I was thoroughly impressed – even the latte was picture perfect.

Latte, The Common Tiger, Phnom Penh

Dinner

We booked ahead for the tasting menu (a requirement, if I remember correctly). I’d heard so much about it from several different sources in Phnom Penh that I was steeling myself for disappointment as I was sure they wouldn’t be able to deviate from the menu, or make any gluten free substitutions. Luckily for me, the staff at The Common Tiger were extremely accommodating, and I was able to enjoy an almost identical menu to my dinner companions, just without the bread (brown bread – a sought after commodity in Phnom Penh, it seems) as well as the crispy skin on the pan-fried fish and some kind of cashew biscuit that came with dessert.

Tuna Sashimi, The Common Tiger, Phnom Penh

The seasons and the market dictate the menu at The Common Tiger, which means it isn’t set or available online – and as so much time has passed I really won’t be able to do some of these courses justice. I’ll try to describe each as best as I can recall, but each dish has so many ingredients, infusions and intricate details that you’ll just have to take my word that it was one of the best tasting menus I’ve ever had.

Tuna Sashimi, The Common Tiger, Phnom Penh

The first course was a tuna sashimi dish served with banana heart, served with a light shaving of truffle. This was followed by a crab dish, then a course of fish with pak choi served with perfectly cooked quail eggs – perfectly soft-boiled.

Crab, The Common Tiger, Phnom Penh Fish and Quail Egg, The Common Tiger, Phnom Penh Fish, The Common Tiger, Phnom Penh

The fourth course was duck breast again, though this was lighter than the lunch: served with a few greens.

Duck, The Common Tiger, Phnom Penh

The final course, which looks like a miniature city of Oz, was a magical combination of pomelo, jackfruit, white chocolate, ricotta mousse and mint. I’m not the biggest fan of desserts usually, but this, as well as the whole tasting menu, was nothing short of spectacular.

Dessert, The Common Tiger, Phnom PenhDessert, The Common Tiger, Phnom PenhDessert, The Common Tiger, Phnom Penh

5 Stars (5 / 5)

No. 20, Street 294, Phnom Penh, Cambodia 12000 | +855 23 212917 / +855 92 963 920
Mon-Sat 12:00 – 22:00

Things to do in Phnom Penh: Sunset Cruise

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone! I feel so lucky to be spending it in such a vibrant, exciting and warm place surrounded by loved ones. We’ve been doing a lot of festive activities (drinking, eating, caroling), and although we’ve got a Christmas playlist on an almost constant loop, I can’t say I’m feeling particularly Christmassy, though we’re having a lot of fun. I spent today on another Cambodian cooking course (read about the first one I went on here), a great experience which I’ll be writing up shortly!

Sunset Cruise, Phnom Penh Sunset Cruise, Phnom Penh Sunset Cruise, Phnom Penh Sunset Cruise, Phnom Penh

One thing I really regretted not doing last time I was in Phnom Penh was going on a sunset cruise. It’s well worth doing – the heart of Phnom Penh lies close to where the Mekong river meets the Ton Le Sap, which changes the direction of its flow once a year. While floating down the river you can see the Royal Palace, and landmarks like the Vattanac Tower on one bank – and on the other, the new, including the new Sokha hotel in Phnom Penh.

Sunset Cruise, Phnom Penh Sunset Cruise, Phnom Penh Sunset Cruise, Phnom Penh Sunset Cruise, Phnom Penh

We brought our own prosecco and took in the view, as well as the bats flying alongside and above the boat. As we had prearranged dinner plans, we didn’t bring our own food, but our drinks stayed chilled in the ice box that was provided. The boat was lovely – wooden, attractive and more sophisticated than some of the gaudy monstrosities that often trap tourists wanting to go on a boat tour. We only hired the boat for an hour, but with seating provided it would be a great idea for a romantic evening – especially as almost all restaurants in Phnom Penh deliver, getting some take out and taking it on a sunset cruise would be something I’d love to do in the future.

royal palace, sunset cruise, phnom penh Sunset Cruise, Phnom Penh Sunset Cruise view, Phnom Penh Sunset Cruise, Phnom Penh

We paid $30 for an hour with Crocodile Cruise – it’s definitely worth booking ahead, as we saw several tourists jump on the first cruise they saw. We were able to have the whole boat for our group, at a really reasonable rate. I’ve got another few posts lined up before I go to Kampot and Kep on Boxing Day, followed by New Year’s eve in Phuket and possibly some of the islands too.

Hope you are all having a lovely Christmas eve!