One place that we kept returning to in Siem Reap was Psar Chaa (the old market). The market itself is rather small in comparison to the ones i have visited in Bali & Bangkok but held its own charm. Only the outside stalls sell souvenirs and knick-knacks while the other, slightly hidden stalls sells everything you can find in a wet market – a variety of rices, dried fish / pork sausages, pungent fermented fish in glass containers (prahok, i believe they are called), vegetables, fruits etc.
but apart from grabbing some souvenirs for friends & family, we spent some time exploring the streets around the Psar Chaa, which had tuk-tuks and food carts parked beside it. i was intrigued with the variety of local street food sold on these food carts, ranging from fried noodles, sausages, some kind of fruit salad and baguettes (probably a vestige from the french colonialism). however, i think we only managed to try the baguettes throughout the entire trip.
our tuk-tuk driver, Sokla recommended eating at the Psar Chaa if we wanted authentic Khmer food. i was a little sceptical at first as most of these eateries had english menus, complete with pictures, seemingly catering for the foreigners. we plonked ourselves at some the red plastic seats at the eatery directly opposite the friends international & childsafe office. Had fresh coconuts while we waited for the chefs to cook up our dishes. also had some fun playing with reflective shots using the metal teapot.
i was piqued to see that they had frogs on their menu. i ordered the stuffed frogs but it was not available so i settled for frog with spices and it was easily the best dish we had in siem reap! i am not sure what spices was used, but i think turmeric is one of them, and red chilli slices and peanuts were also visible. i saw a khmer soup on my first day which I have been tempted to try and ordered it this time around – Taro soup with freshwater fish. politikus’s choice was spare ribs with pineapple curry. not too sure why they termed it spare ribs when only pork slices were used. the soup had quite a distinctive flavour, and i wouldn’t be surprised if this was due to the prahok essence which is used as an addition to many cambodian dishes, and every soup apparently.
Glad we took Sokla’s advice and tried khmer food with no frills at the Psar Chaa as it was a truly satisfying meal. Pity I didn’t note the name of the restaurant. Still, look out for the menu board with photos (as above), protected with cellophane tape opposite the friends international centre when you’re in siem reap for the foodie experience we had.