Eating Out in Phnom Penh – My Favourite Restaurants

Eating out in restaurants back in Ireland or any other western county can be pricey and sometimes only happens on special occasions. And when I talk about eating out I don’t mean a take away from Lennox’s or Four Star Pizza. I mean going to a restaurant, sitting down, having food, a few beers and catching up with friends. This is what Phnom Penh does best!

There are hundreds, if not thousands of restaurants in PP to choose from, some better than others and some hidden gems that are rarely talked about by the expat community in order to keep off the backpacker trail.

TripAdvisor is a great way to visit some of the top places to eat in a city, but sometimes it doesn’t have everything, or some of the establishments do not receive the recognition that they deserve. It is good to use TripAdvisor as a guide, but don’t take is as Gospel!

The following are some of my favourite places to eat in PP:

  1. Chat and Chew – No. 54, St.172, Phnom Penh
    Owned by Sony and his wife, it is a nice small friendly place where you are always greeted with a smile, and if you’re luck you will get one of the two tables outside. The walls are decorated with various pictures of the Khmer culture, from Khmer boxing to the rural rice fields.
    Chat and Chew is a local spot for most Expats in PP who have tried a lot of different eateries in the city. It’s breakfast options vary from omelettes, to muesli to a full English Breakfast, and my personal favourite, egg and soldiers!
    Main courses are the main reason that the expat community keep coming to Chat and Chew. Burgers, pasta, pizza, salads and the Western Specialties such and Chicken Cordon Blue, Beef Wellington and BBQ Ribs are all top quality and ensure that you don’t leave hungry.

    Chicken Cordon Blue

    Chicken Cordon Blue

    Its local Asian and Khmer Menu offer some cheaper alternatives to the Western menu. Nasi Goreng, Fried Rice/Noodles, Khmer curry, Amok, Chicken and cashew are all available. The unique taste from each dish will ensure that the next time you return you will want to taste something new and see it can beat your last order.

    Nasi Goreng

    Nasi Goreng

  2. The Irish Place – Street 110, No. 119, Phnom Penh
    Phnom Penh’s equivalent to Cheers, the place where everyone knows your name. Ran by Pat Hurney from Dublin, Ireland, The Irish Place is the only TRUE Irish Bar in the city of Phnom Penh. The Irish Place is full of Expats who come for the cold beer, atmosphere and the FOOD!!
    Best option to order on the menu is the Fish and Chips. If you manage to fish this serving you are doing very well for yourself! (a half portion option is available)
    If you manage to wake up early, get yourself to The Irish Place for full Irish Breakfast, complete with tea and toast! This is by far the best breakfast in PP and luckily is still not too famous. But for sure the word will spread like wild fire!
    The toasted sandwiches are the best in town, proper bread, proper cheese and peppered ham that is second to none!

    Fish and Chips

    Fish and Chips

    FULL IRISH BREAKFAST

    FULL IRISH BREAKFAST

    The Irish Place also offers accommodation upstairs so be sure to check it out!

  3. Katy Peri’s Pizza – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qc2IMxyLhAw
    First of all this is a mobile wood fired pizza oven that makes the best pizzas in PP! Hands Down! It only opens after dark because the guys who work there have other jobs in the morning. After 11pm it can be found on the corner of St 51 and St 172 and it will stay there until about 4am or until they run out
    So its location varies during the the week 5pm-10pm:
    Monday- Showbox
    Tuesday- Bluedog
    Wednesday –Bluedog
    Thursday – Showbox
    If I didn’t mention it already, this is the best pizza in PP! Small pizza’s start from $3 to $5 for a large! Words can’t justify the taste of this pizza. Just ask any person who lives in PP and they will tell you about it.
    It is usually consumed at about 3am after Howies or Love Bar. If you are lucky, you will get a seat and a table to eat off of.
  4. Restaurant 18 – St 108 (Next to the Night Market)
    This is a local Khmer beer garden style place where you can find all the local delicacies and free flowing Anchor! The menu is similar to a phone book and is full of pictures of the food that they have to offer. There is always a BBQ flaming in front of the restaurant, a fish tank that offers the freshest of fish and personal cook-it-yourself gas burners for soup or fried meats.
    Some of the best dishes on the menu are the fried frog, mango salad, battered prawns and the whole fried fish.
    With jugs of Anchor going for $2 a pop, it is a great place to meet with friends, chat, drink and eat before the night ahead

I’m starting to get hungry now so I’m going to stop!

Volunteering at the SCAO New School in Som Roung Village, Cambodia

Living in a rural Cambodian village is a great experience; it is something that I have thoroughly enjoyed. Every volunteer that I have seen pass through the SCAO New School was loved living in the village. Even the people that would come out and visit the school for a few hours would fall in love with the people, the atmosphere and the all-round welcoming that is there.

Ana and Ali playing with some of the younger kids in front of the sch

Ana, Ali and Katie playing with some of the younger kids in front of the school

To say that the village is friendly is an understatement. Once you arrive into the village everyone is smiling, waving and the children are shouting ‘HELLO’ as you pass by. Even just meaningless errands like going to the shop put a smile on your face. It maybe the drunk neighbours inviting you for a few shots of rice wine or whisky, the child that never wears clothes doing the Gangnam Style dance or seeing a new litter of puppies in the house around the corner. The village is always buzzing with something going on, be it a wedding or just a regular party. Music is blasted from speakers for hours at a time and sometimes it begins at 4am.

Lunch with all the volunteers!

Lunch with all the volunteers!

Lunch is served up by Da at 11am and this is usually when everyone gathers around the table. Before this the volunteers are free to do what they like; go for real Khmer coffee, lots of ice and lots of sugar, do their washing or as Lukas likes to do, just sleep! The volunteers who stay at the New School don’t begin classes until 12pm, so it is different to life at the Old School where the computer class begins at 7.30am. Teachers and their classes are always organised before each week or whenever a new volunteer arrives, this ensures the smooth running of the school and makes sure that each volunteer has enough classes to keep them busy for the day. Each volunteer has an average of 2-3 hours teaching a day, this may not seem like a lot of work for one day, but if you add in the +35°C heat every day and dozens of screaming children you have a very tired teacher at the end of the day.

The classes run from 12.00-8.30pm from Monday to Wednesday and 12.00-6.30pm Thursday to Friday. Whenever volunteers don’t have class they are free to do what they like. Every volunteer is different, some volunteers like to stay in their room and read or go on the internet, others like to go explore the village and play with the children. Everyone has their own way of relaxing!

For me personally I like to chill out the front of the school and talk with Sovanred and Da. It is here that I really get the chance to bond with them, and try to get Visal to say my name! (He still hasn’t said it) I like this ‘down time’ away from work because it is real, I really get to know Sovanred and Da, things they like and don’t like, their opinions on politics, and what they would do to run things smoother. They are a great insight into the life of a Cambodian family. Well to be perfectly honest they are my Cambodian Family! Not so much as parental figures (because they are around my age) but more of an adopted brother and sister. I was nervous about telling Sovanred that I was to move out to Phnom Penh because I was getting a teaching job to finance my stay at SCAO. He understood my reasoning behind the job and the move to the city, but I could still sense that he was upset that I was leaving. I have made it my duty to make it back to the village see them as much as I can and to continue my community development work.

Visal, Sovanred and Da

Visal, Sovanred and Da

Some of the best times that volunteers have at the school does not take place in the classroom, it happens outside in the village during times that you wouldn’t expect. These are the times in a volunteers stay that the memories are made and the times that you don’t experience in these ‘package volunteer holidays’. It’s the times that you have with your students outside the classroom where you can act and play like a child too. It was only last week when there was an extremely heavy downpour that some of the kids ran past the gates shouting and trying to get out to play. As the start I didn’t even think about going into the rain, then I thought, Why the hell not??? So I emptied my pockets and joined them outside for a game of football and general horseplay in the rain.

Sometimes it is fun to act like a child again, and if you think about it, that’s the whole point of being a child, to have fun!

Whenever you get the opportunity to act like a child again, take it! You never know how often it will come around.

Party time- 300 children, lots of food, loud music, limitless fun!

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All the preparation of the food for the party

After the survey had been completed, it was the turn of the children to have some fun. This day was set out to promote SCAO to the people of Som Roung Village. Within in the space of about 5 hours we would have had approximately 400 people through the gates of the SCOOP School in the Village. So it is easy to say that the day was nothing less than a major success!

The day for the volunteers began at 8am with a mass delivery of tomatoes, onions, carrots, pork and bread. The food that would be served to the children was a tomato based sauce inside a bread baguette. In order to feed over 300 children there needed to be a lot of ingredients. However it was not the children that inflicted the most damage to the volunteers but the onions. There are plenty of ‘certain’ methods to prevent you from crying while you are cutting onions, but none of these worked. Some volunteers were left in tears and regretted putting mascara on that morning. None the less we all powered through the pain and finished off the prep, all be it with a few cut fingers.

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Children waiting to be let in through the gates

The party was originally supposed to begin at 3pm, but because the household survey ran longer that expected, it did not begin until 4pm. There was a clear increase in the decibel level coming from the children outside the gates between 3-4pm. These children were ready for a major party!!

It is near impossible to describe the scenes that unfolded once we opened the gates for the children. With too many hyper children to count we estimate that there were approximately 300 children in SCAO that day. Like a plague of locusts to a crop field, the first victim was the table distributing the food. There was no order for the children to queue up in, and even if there was it would not have been obeyed.

With the children now fed, they changed their attention to the drinks table. This table was manned by 5 volunteers and Khmer teachers, but with 300 thirsty children’s’ focus now on this table, there was a Cold War standoff. It began with the first opening of a bottle of fizzy cola. The children could already taste the imminent sugar rush and they swarmed around the table. We handled the situation the best we could, we set up an efficient production line of loading ice into plastic cups, filling the cups with fizzy drinks and then distributing them to the children. We did however have a casualty in this battle. A 3 litre bottle of fizzy strawberry drink was dropped in the rush to fill the drinks. Unaware, somebody picked it up only seconds later and opened it. An eruption of bright pink form rushed upwards from the bottle and soaked the people unlucky enough to be close to it. These people wore the battle scares of pink stains for the rest of the day.

Being attached by the children with talking powder

Being attached by the children with talking powder

Once the food and drinks had been given out to all the children it was time to dance! With two 4 foot speakers pumping out the latest Khmer music, the children’s sugar rush hit its peak and the place was bouncing! All the children from SCAO, of all ages and from all classes were dancing until their legs could not hold them anymore. It is a great experience as a teacher to see your students in such an environment outside the classroom. To see them really having fun and playing with all the other kids is something that I will always remember.

Music and dancing is something that goes hand in hand with the Khmer people. Setting up a music and dance project in the New School is now one of my goals while I am here. But firstly to do this I need to get funding to put a roof on the roof of the school. This would add an extra area to the school that could facilitate dance and music classes, as well as yoga classes and a general recreation area for the children to play in then they are finished their classes.

The view from behind the drinks table

The view from behind the drinks table

We must have danced for over 3 hours, and towards 7pm you could see the sugar wearing off and the children becoming more and more exhausted. With the sugar burned out and the party winding down we could take the time to reflect on the extremely successful day that we just had. The day would not have been possible without the help and dedication of the volunteers, Khmer teachers, local neighbours, the children, Pacha Youth Foundation. Volunteering and working for an NGO is never a single persons job, you need to be able rely on the support of the people around you to achieve your goals! I am lucky enough to be working with some of the most inspiring and dedicated people I have ever met.

Distributing Rice and Fish Sauce to the poorest families of Som Roung Village

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Wide view from the front of the classroom of all the 50 households

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Myself distributing a bottle of fish sauce to an elderly woman. This woman in-particular has no source of income, and supports 3 grandchildren

The household survey that I developed had taken a back seat for a few weeks. This was due to a number of different factors. SCAO‘s first ever Annual Report was the main reason, and I had a lot of work to do to make sure that everything was in order for the report to be finished. But I can explain this in a future blog. Another contributing factor was the fact that only Vibol (Khmer teacher) and I could carry out the surveys.  However the opportunity arose for me to reach a large number of households in a very short time period with the visit of our partner organisation, Pacha Youth Foundation. Gabe from Pacha Youth wanted to throw an event for the people of the village and the children that attend the New School in Som Roung.

With collaboration from myself, Gabe and Mr.Sameth (SCAO Director) we decided on distributing 10kgs of rice and a bottle of fish sauce to 50 of the poorest families in the village. This was my best opportunity to access 50 households in one area, and at the same time. This was a chance that I could not let slip by!! We decided that the families would arrive to the New School at 1.30pm and we would then conduct the surveys accordingly. I had 6 groups of 2 people conducting the surveys. It was always a volunteer taking down the answers of the questionnaires and a Khmer teacher acting as a translator. I feel that this team worked so well because we all work together on a daily basis, we all know each other very well and thus communication between the two is almost perfect! I owe the success of the mass survey collection to the volunteers and Khmer teachers who helped out on the day! Thank you!

The surveys threw up similar answers that I had been hearing before from the families that I had previously interviewed. No access to a toilet, no clean drinking water, and an average income of $40-$70 a month! This information has truly inspired and motivated me to do something about these problems that people face in the village that I have grown to love so much. For us Westerners it is difficult to imagine having to leave you house and go to the bathroom outside in a field. But this is a daily task for these people, they don’t even think about the luxuries that we have. I have the drive now to set up public toilets in the village. This would dramatically increase the living conditions of the people, increase hygiene standards, and decrease the rick of illness from unsanitary conditions.

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Gabe from Pacha Youth Foundation and I handing out bags of rice and fish sauce

Som Roung Village has had a very special influence on my life. It is the people that you meet everyday who have a bright joyful smile on their face, the students you pass on your way to get noodle soups from the shop, the next-door neighbours to make you feel most welcome in their front garden, and most of all, the real sense of belonging to a village community! These people do not have a lot, but they are willing to give everything and help! This is something that I most admire.

Once my time comes to leave Som Roung, whenever that is, I will hope that I have left something behind that betters the community.

Environmentally Friendly Charcoal Demonstration in Som Roung Village

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Environmentally Friendly Charcoal Demonstration in Som Roung Village

Sustainable Green Fuel Enterprise (SGF) is the first of its kind in Cambodia. It produces environmentally friendly charcoal made from used coconut shells from around the city of Phnom Penh. The company employs 14 people who all receive a good wage and they are also provided with health insurance.

http://www.sgfe-cambodia.com/environment

The charcoal is used by restaurants around Phnom Penh, and is popular with street vendors also. People who work around charcoal for a living prefer to use this charcoal because it burns longer, produces no smoke and no sparks, and it is therefore burns cleaner and safer.

The families of Som Roung Village use firewood to do most of their cooking. This causes a lot of smoke and at around 6pm everyday it is a common sight to see masses of smoke rising from the village.

On the 8th of February at 8am there was a demonstration given to the people of the village on the eco-charcoal. Over 70 people from the village came to see the demo and to learn about this new charcoal that burns for longer and has no sparks or no smoke. These are the points that the charcoal sells on and not the environmentally friendly aspect. At the demo there was 150kgs of charcoal sold in one hour. We are now in the phase of getting feedback from the people who bought the charcoal and to see their first-hand experience with it.
It is hoped in the future that S.C.A.O. and work in collaboration with SGF and the Som Roung community to provide environmentally friendly charcoal to the households that could benefit from it. This would then hopefully in the future make Som Roung Village a more environmentally friendly place to live.