It has been less than a week since I’ve been back from my trip in South-East Asia. I cannot help to constantly reminisce on the amazing memories I have made along the way. As promised, here is a short guide to some of the best places to eat in Cambodia and Laos.
1) Sala Bai Hotel School
I CANNOT RECOMMEND THIS PLACE ENOUGH!!! I would definitely rate it 5/5 and would say it was the place I ate at during my whole trip :)
Not only does the food taste delicious, the dishes are innovative and presented in a creative manner. What is also attracting about this restaurant is the whole humanitarian project behind it. In a nutshell, Sala Bai is a Hotel and Restaurant School created by the French NGO Agir pour le Cambode which each year trains – free of charge – about 100 young disadvantaged Cambodians. So the Sala Bai school promotes the establishment and growth of the Cambodian vocational training system, the sustainable development of tourism, the reduction of poverty and the fight against human trafficking in Cambodia.
Given the nature of the restaurant (being a school), the menu is a ‘set menu’ which comprises of an entree, main and desert. The drinks menu has a wide selection of choices with yummy cocktails (and mocktails) to watch out for!
Here is an example of what you can be expected to be served:
– Deep-fried vermicelli with tofu and pork. A combination of traditional Khmer appetiser, flavoured with fresh coriander, shallots and Khmer dressing.
– Traditional Khmer chicken curry and yellow mango.
– Sweet chilled black sticky rice, fresh seasonal fruits and sweet milk.
The service is impeccable (clearly the students are well taught) and the atmosphere of the restaurant is charming as the place is stylishly decorated and has a relaxing yet sophisticated feel to it.
Here are some photos from my lunch:
Location: 155 Phoum Tapoul, Siem Reap.
One of Phnom Penh’s best-loved restaurant and another good-cause dining place, this venue specialises in tasty tapas bites that are a must-try! I would recommend getting a few tapas and plates to share. The traditional Khmer curry called the ‘Amok’ is particularly delicious. Prices are rather low with tapas ranging from US $2-$5 and mains from $6.
Location: 215 st 13, Phnom Penh.
Below are photos of the restaurant (note: the photos are just taken from the internet as I did not bring my camera out with me when I went there!)
3) The Temple Club
Located in the famous ‘Pub Street’ of Siem Reap, if you don’t visit this place for lunch/dinner or by night for a drink or two, then you have to try one of its 3-hour cooking classes!
I went to the Temple Club for dinner and I had the pleasure to watch a traditional dancing show as part of my meal for free! This place gets busy at night. It literally transforms itself from a rather family/touristy orientated restaurant to a very groovy, loud and busy dancing bar in the late hours of the evening. Great atmosphere!
The cooking classes there are really worth doing. My friend and I joined an afternoon class and we had such a great time. The classes are only US $10 which is also a bonus.
Below are photos from our cooking class (note that the quality of the dishes clearly give you a good idea of what you can expect to be served at the restaurant if you just went there for lunch or dinner!):
Location: Pub Street, Siem Reap, Cambodia.
I didn’t go to that many restaurants in Laos actually. I loved going to the markets and buying fresh local fruits and I also ate at some of the many street stalls. Just an advice though: if you are going to eat at the street markets be careful about what you are getting – I would recommend staying away from the meat and fish and sticking with simple rice, vegetables and stir fries! Banana chips are a yummy snack which are found everywhere in Laos and Cambodia!
In Luang Prabang you will find the best street markets (both in terms and food and shopping). I also recommend eating by the Mekong River at night. There are plenty of cheap yet really charming restaurants by the river which offer a wide variety of food on the menu catering for all tastes!
The one ‘Western’ cafe which I did fall for is called Joma. I have to admit that once in a while it does feel good to eat a fresh salad which you know is safe to eat as the vegetables have been cleaned in purified water (you can get very bad food poisoning if you eat raw food in Asia – I can talk from experience!). Joma amazingly provided for my western style cravings! I LOVED their ‘Taco salad’ and their sandwiches are great as take-away food which can be eaten on a day trip. For coffee and tea lovers this place will also be your new best friend. Good news is there are a few Joma cafes around in Asia!
Location: Chao Fa Ngum Rd, on the main road near the post office, Luang Prabang.
P.S: Click here
to access a good lonely planet webpage with recommendations regarding dining for a good cause in Asia.