In the town famous for being the gateway to Angkor Archaeological Park, lies an infamous street. A street popular for drinking, deep fried insects, banana pancakes, and happy pizza among other things. Located east of the Old Market area, this is where all the tourists go during their stay in Siem Reap.
These days, Pub Street is almost synonymous with Siem Reap and Angkor. Now teeming with pubs, restaurants, shops, bars, cafes, and art galleries, the street used to be a quiet one. Angkor What was first on the scene in 1998. Followed by the Red Piano and the Soup Dragon. But what made the street popular, especially for Red Piano, was the arrival of the Tomb Raider crew in 2000. One of the bar’s signature cocktail is even named after the movie. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The selection of cuisine you can find is diverse so I’m sure that there would be something that would catch your fancy. Some of the establishments are open whole day. But the street comes alive after sunset, drawing in the tourists who just finished their temple run.
Parallel to Pub Street is a pedestrian-only alley that seemed to be its quieter version. If you feel overwhelmed with the crowd, it’ll be a good idea to go here instead.
Banana Pancake and other street food
After that sweet treat, have a taste of Khmer cuisine and Cambodian beer. The one where we went to can be found within Pub Street Alley. It was nestled between posh and pricey restaurants. Their prices are reasonable and you can get your money’s worth for the amount of serving.
We ordered their version of fresh spring rolls (I know, I know, Vietnamese!) and Khmer Amok. Both were really good and of course, we paired it up with a cup of steamed white rice. I have eaten a LOT of spring rolls in my life and while this one was not that memorable, I do remember it as freshly prepared. With no dryness in the wrapper and the vegetables.
Amok is a popular Khmer dish that uses coconut milk. It is usually steamed in a banana leaf cup. You can also find other versions in Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. It also has the distinct flavors of lemongrass, galangal, and turmeric. The result of which, is a delicate balance of sweet, fragrant, zesty and creamy.
You can wash it all down with Angkor Premium beer, one of the most popular beer brands in Cambodia. It is a lager beer with only 5% of alcohol volume. It is smooth and has a full rich flavor. And not as bitter as Philippines’ Red Horse Beer.
Food serving time was prompt and service was good. Despite the language barrier, the servers were all polite.
Tired from our temple run that ran from dawn to dusk, we went straight to Pub Street to replete our energy. This time, we ended up in Golden Coconut just because it was the best seat from the entertainment across the street. (Who can turn down a free show? Lol) The eatery’s front side is open to the sidewalk.
Like Khmer House, the prices here are affordable (mostly in the $4-$6 range). It is a simple restaurant frequented by locals and foreigners alike. Sometimes, though, it is best not to expect anything for that price range. Especially with the food and service. We ordered their version of Beef Lok Lak as well as stir-fried rice noodles with vegetables and egg. Both of which were quite tasty. Although the beef could use a little more tenderness.
There is an ongoing debate that Beef Lok Lak is not an original Cambodian cuisine, but rather Vietnamese in origin. It closely resembles Vietnam’s Bo Luc Lac (“shaking beef”). Years of enmity would have the Cambodians insisting that the dish is theirs, though. Beef lok lak is stir-fried marinated beef slices usually served on a bed of vegetables like lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Golden Coconut’s version is served with fried egg and fried rice.
Located at the end of Pub Street, we decided to check out this 3-storey restaurant not knowing that it was quite popular in downtown Siem Reap. It was our last day in Cambodia and we were looking for a place to eat and rest away from the scorching sun after our Royal Gardens and Old Market jaunt.
Actually, it was the free Wi-Fi that lured me in. LOL. It was not until we were looking at the menu that we realized that Soup Dragon is a Vietnamese restaurant. They are known for their Pho and Spring Rolls. But they also offer Western cuisine and other Asian dishes. They have a menu so extensive that I was wondering how they were managing their kitchen. Their famous Hot Pot “Soup Chhnang Dae”, Green Mango Salad, and sliced chicken with nuts are all worth a try.
The hot pot is big enough for more than two persons and I definitely challenge you to fit it all in one pot. Haha.
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