Type: Vegetarian Restaurant
Average Price: $8 - $15
Address: The Passage (mid way along), Old Market, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Amongst the various eateries found within the central hub of the bustling Old Market area in Siem Reap, foreign visitors have a large selection of food ranging from very typical western dishes to slightly more exotic choices such as Crocodile or Snake. But somewhere within this carnivorous heaven is a little vegetarian sanctuary called Chamkar - which in Khmer loosely translates to “the vegetable garden”.
Their claim to fame is to cook with fresh local vegetables, and strive to use organic ingredients whenever possible, providing a gourmet and healthy dining experience for all lovers of food. All dishes are guaranteed free of meat, fish, fish sauce, eggs and MSG.
Enough of the introduction, what you all probably want to know is about the food! Well firstly I should make it clear that I am no vegetarian and I’m happy to tear away at some fleshy meat such as the above mentioned snake (python to be precise, a great workout for your jaw muscles may I add!), BUT this place is quite possibly hands down one of my fa
vourite and most enjoyable restaurants I have been to, so much so that I made a total of 3 visits in 3 consecutive evenings. So as Ms C.C. would say: so let’s get down to business ya’ll…
Day 1 – The Discovery
As I’m seated and passed the menu, two ladies sitting on the table beside me just finished there meal and tell the waitress how fantastically awesome the entire meal was and enquire about the subtle flavours of the dish they just ate! So this is a good start already! After going through the menu, I decide order: Rediscovering Tofu - Stuffed Tofu with fried pumpkin, curry paste and toasted peanut served with an onion and green pepper chutney (and served with rice).
So how good was this exactly? Well rate your favourite dish on a scale of 1 to 17, multiply it with any random number between 1 and 100, add 50 and square the result! Yes that equals… SUPER YUM. The flavours worked very well, the chutney was delicious and I was totally stuffed! All for a little over $5 USD - great value for money as well! I liked it so much I knew I had to try and sample as much as I could off the menu during the rest of my stay.
Day 2 – Man on a Mission
Even though the main meal from the previous evening left me totally stuffed, I just HAD to go all out and order 3 courses because I wanted to taste more and more!
Starter: Coconut Dream - Chilled coconut milk and sweet potato cream topped with tofu, fresh tomato dices and sesame seeds. This was very refreshing and cooling, much welcomed as I was sitting in the Cambodian heat of the evening.
Main: Truly Rooty - Crunchy cassava fritters with yellow curry paste and toasted cashew nuts served with a delicately perfumed chilli and krasaing fruit sauce and a green mango chutney on the side.It looks deceptively light but infact was once again very filling. It had a nice blend of textures and flavours.
Dessert: The Mellow Treat - Traditional Cambodian cake flavoured with palm sugar and served with a sweet coconut and yam bean sauce. Very different to the typical western pudding, and wasn’t overly sweet.
At the end of this humongous meal, I was well and truly stuffed. It’s a good thing I had trekking planned at Phnom Koulen National Park the following day!
Day 3: It’s Getting Emotional
My final day in Siem Reap and my last opportunity to sample these great Khmer influenced vegetarian dishes. Although I wanted to do a full 3 course one last time, I just couldn’t do it as I still planned to eat some of the more exotic meat dishes.
Ratana's Spring Roll - Green mango, fried yam bean, cucumber, carrot, lettuce and a wide range of fresh aromatic herbs served with a sweet coconut and chilli sauce. Nice, crunchy and fricka-fricka-fresh!
Biting Amok - fragrant bites rolled in amok leaf and cooked in a slightly spicy coconut milk sauce, creating a broad range of distinct sweet, sour and spicy flavours. Amok is a signature Khmer dish and as my farewell dish, it made sense to taste the vegetarian twist on it.
It was nice but the fish and chicken versions have the edge in my opinion. This was served with wholesome brown rice this time meaning I was EXTRA stuffed so I had to sadly leave some food on the plate.
Uncle Manish’s thoughts…
If you are ever looking to visit the Angkor Temples, you can relax in knowing that there is a kick-ass vegetarian restaurant that will cater for your dietary and tastebud needs. The service is always friendly and given with a smile, tasteful decor and very reasonable prices. You can happily eat like a King/Queen with a 3 course meal for under $15 (approx £10). Almost good enough to make me convert back to vegetarianism…
Rating out of 17: