• Jan Ghisoni

How to survive in Cambodia as a Vegetarian/Vegan/Celiac

Updated: 5 days ago

It is always a concern when visiting a new destination as to whether you will enjoy the local cuisine and it becomes even more of a worry if you have special dietary restrictions which can be overlooked by many food establishments. You will be pleasantly surprised to discover that there are quite a few places in Cambodia that will cater to your requirements and they are happy to do so. Healthy options are becoming the norm in several countries around the world including Cambodia. We discovered a few excellent restaurants in the main cities of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap which we will provide details on later.


To get you started here are a few phrases which you may find helpful (courtesy of movetocambodia.com):-


I don’t eat = “Knyom aut nyam….”

No meat = “Aht chak”

Egg (chicken/duck) = “Pong moan/thear”

Milk = “tduk dah ko”

Fish sauce = “tduk try”

Oyster sauce = “preng chong”

Chicken powder = “sop khan”

Vegetable = “bong lie”

Fried rice = “bai cha”

Thank you very much = “ahkun chran”


No doubt you are going to want to eat like a local and one of the ways in which you can experience this is by sampling the street food on offer. However do be aware that many of the dishes may contain fish sauce, oyster sauce and chicken or beef stock. You will have more success having your dietary requirements met in a restaurant although this is more expensive than eating street food (still cheap by western standards). The food will still taste amazing.


Here are some popular street foods which should be suitable for vegetarians and vegans:-


Domlong An (grilled bananas on sticks)

Noun Domlong Barang (sweet potato and coconut grilled patties)

Steamed corn on the cob

Baguettes - buy plain bread and buy your own filling from a supermarket

Khmer fried rice or noodles with vegetables

Vegetable stir fry

Vegetable Amok - many restaurants are happy to serve amok without the fish sauce

Khmer red curry - can be served with pumpkin instead of meat

Rice noodle salad, banana flower salad and mango salad are great vegetarian/vegan/gluten free dishes and if made with fresh ingredients in front of you in a cafe or restaurant you can guarantee that they should be safe to eat.


Cambodia is embracing the growing trend around the world to provide options for those of us who do not consume meat, dairy products or who are celiac and are definitely unable to consume any gluten.


Here are a few vegan/vegetarian/gluten free friendly eating establishments:-


Phnom Penh


Backyard Cafe

11B Street 246, Phnom Penh

Open mon to sun 7.30am to 4.30pm


They serve healthy vegan, raw, gluten free foods. Their menu includes quinoa, salads, sandwiches and even a pasta free tasty lasagne.


Evergreen Vegetarian House

109 Street 130, Phnom Penh

Open mon to sun 7.00am to 2.00pm and 3.30pm to 9.00pm


They offer extensive vegetarian/vegan versions of Cambodian traditional dishes as well as tasty mock meat options and gluten free meals.


Sacred Lotus Cafe

127 Street 440, Phnom Penh

Open mon to sun 7.30am to 8.00pm


This cafe serves plant based Khmer dishes including gluten free options as well as an extensive western menu. They also have their own yoga and meditation studio which you might like to try for a truly relaxing experience.


Siem Reap


Banlle

Street 26, Siem Reap

Open mon - sun 7.00am to 9.15pm


They offer an extensive range of vegan foods including mushroom lok lak, vegan fish & chips as well as a vegan tasting platter which is highly recommended. Also included are several gluten free options.


Haven

Chocolate Road (west of Angkor High School)

West Damnak area, Siem Reap

Open thurs - sun 11.00am to 9.00pm


They offer vegan and gluten free Khmer traditional dishes including Khmer curry, Khmer lok lak and tofu cashew nuts as well as a vegan spiced carrot cake with passion fruit sorbet.

Please support this business because Haven is a training school and they train disadvantaged young people in the hospitality industry giving them valuable work experience and life skills. This in turn gives them hope for a better and brighter future.



Peace Cafe Vegetarian Restaurant

River Road (next to Ankau Saa Pagoda)

Open mon to sun 7.30am to 9.00pm


This cafe serves traditional vegan Khmer curries and vegetarian amok as well as sweet & sour cauliflower. There are several gluten free dishes available as well. You can follow your meal with a healthy vegetable juice.


It would be great to hear about any of your experiences whilst in Cambodia particularly if you follow a more restrictive diet. We are always keen to share our experiences and in turn listen to any feedback you may have.