If you have limited time to visit Phenom Penh and you wish to see and taste lot of varieties of Khmer food easily in one sitting, I suggest you try Khmer Food Village.
Khmer Food Village sits near the monstrous “Naga World” casino/hotel complex near the Tonle Sap river.
Tonight, two local friends took me to Khmer Food Village to sample of lot foods I may not have seen yet.
As my friends and I talked about Cambodian cultures, we dined on stuffed frog, spicy chicken, squid cooked with Kampot pepper, and more delicious dishes, with steamed rice of course.
Eating the food of another culture is one of the best ways to get to know that culture. Not only is one eating the food, but one is dining with others from that country.
Tonight, many families were also eating at the restaurant. The inside has traditional fishing nets and “bat homes” as decor. Thatched huts are also part of the decor, although these roofed huts sit beneath a nice metal roof … no danger of getting wet, even if it is raining outside, as it did briefly tonight as we sat at one of the open air tables, near the side. My view was of the Naga World’s giant computer billboard, a monstrous amount of lights and signage, but somehow fun and fascinating due to being just so big.
Two hours of dining passed quickly. Once I was told I had rice on my face (again), which I wiped away. My friends told me that the old men in the villages would say jokingly, “Oh that rice is for someone back home”, before wiping away errant rice.
We talked about education in Cambodia. We discussed books that would be good to write about Khmer culture. They told me about sayings of some villagers such as, “I know this village like I know my finger”, to say they knew the village well. They reminded that when I travel I need to always need to ask the history of the name of the place or the story about where I was visiting. “In Cambodia, there is always a story.”
Eating food in the Khmer culture is a communal experience, so we shared each of the dishes we ordered. The food was OK but we talked about how Khmer food cooked in the small restaurants by by a husband and wife who prepare the food with that special attention of good cooks is always the best food.
Khmer Food Village is a good way to try a lot of Cambodian food in a nice safe setting. All you have to do is order and hand them your “dining card”, which is swiped through a computer and your meal calculated for one single payment at the exit. No more digging for Riels on the side of the road. Just hand your dining card to the teller and pay the total. Technology meets traditional Khmer food.
We stepped outside after finishing our meal. Across the street the stories high electronic billboard of Naga World scrolled the message, “Visit Angkor Wat”. I looked back inside at the large picture displays of all the Khmer foods at the order stations, each with its computer card swipes.
I am definitely not in the countryside anymore.