Looking at learning more about breakfast in Cambodia and places to have best breakfast Phnom Penh? Let’s dive in! 🍳
In the heart of Southeast Asia, Cambodia is a country that boasts a rich history, beautiful temples, and delicious cuisine. Among the various meals, breakfast in Cambodia is an exceptional culinary adventure that is simple yet flavorful, typically comprising fresh, local ingredients.
Whether you’re a fan of rice, noodles, or something a bit more continental, Cambodia has got it all for breakfast lovers. So, let’s explore the traditional Cambodian breakfast menu and discover some of the best breakfast spots in Phnom Penh.
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Traditional Cambodian Breakfast Dishes
Num Banh Chok (Khmer Noodles)
Often hailed as Cambodia’s national dish, Num Banh Chok is a popular breakfast choice among locals. The dish features thin rice noodles, similar to vermicelli, draped in a rich, green fish curry sauce made from a harmonious blend of lemongrass, kaffir lime, turmeric root, and other local herbs and spices. The noodles are then beautifully garnished with a medley of fresh herbs such as mint and Thai basil, banana blossoms, cucumber slices, and bean sprouts, resulting in an irresistible mix of flavors and textures. Eating Num Banh Chok for breakfast is akin to taking a deep dive into Cambodia’s culinary heritage.
Bai Sach Chrouk (Pork and Rice)
Bai Sach Chrouk is one of Cambodia’s most beloved breakfast dishes, and it’s easy to see why. Tender slices of pork are marinated in a sweet and savory blend of garlic, palm sugar, and coconut milk before being slowly grilled over charcoal to smoky perfection. The grilled pork is served atop a generous portion of fragrant jasmine rice and usually accompanied by a small side of fresh, crunchy pickles to cut through the richness. The dish also comes with a bowl of clear chicken broth, garnished with fresh herbs and a sprinkle of black pepper, making it a well-rounded breakfast meal.
Kuy Teav (Noodle Soup)
As a breakfast favorite in Cambodia, Kuy Teav is a soothing, soulful dish that promises a satisfying start to your day. The dish consists of a clear, hearty broth simmered for hours with pork or beef bones to extract the maximum flavor. This rich soup is then poured over a bed of soft rice vermicelli, and topped with a variety of fresh toppings like bean sprouts, lime wedges, and aromatic herbs. What makes Kuy Teav so appealing is its customizability – you can choose from a range of proteins, such as sliced beef, pork, or even seafood, depending on your preference.
Lod Cha / Lort Cha (Short Stir-fried Noodles)
Lort Cha is a delightful breakfast dish that showcases Cambodia’s affinity for stir-fried noodles. Short, fat rice noodles, reminiscent of udon, are tossed in a hot wok with bean sprouts, Chinese broccoli, and chives, absorbing the wonderful flavors of the stir-fry. It’s typically served with slices of tender beef or chicken, cooked to perfection in the wok. The dish reaches a crescendo of flavor with a runny fried egg on top, its yolk adding a layer of richness, and a side of tangy pickled vegetables to balance the flavors.
Nom Pang (Cambodian Sandwich)
Drawing clear inspiration from French cuisine, the Nom Pang is a testament to Cambodia’s colonial past. It features a crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside baguette, slathered with rich pate and creamy mayo. The baguette is then loaded with crunchy cucumber slices, tangy pickled vegetables, fresh cilantro leaves, and your choice of grilled meat, with barbecued pork or chicken being popular options. The combination of flavors and textures makes the Nom Pang an exciting breakfast experience.
Bobor (Rice Porridge)
Comparable to a warm hug in a bowl, Bobor is a comforting Cambodian breakfast dish perfect for those looking for a light, wholesome meal. It’s a simple porridge made by slowly simmering rice in a flavorful broth until it breaks down into a creamy consistency. It’s typically served with delicate pieces of fish, chicken, or pork, that have been cooked in the broth, enhancing their taste. The plain nature of the Bobor allows the flavors of the meat to shine through, creating a harmonious dish that’s both filling and satisfying.
Banh Xeo / Ban Chao (Cambodian Pancake)
Banh Cheiv, also known as Cambodian Pancake, is a delicious and satisfying breakfast food that resembles a thin, crispy crepe. It’s filled with a combination of ground pork, prawns, bean sprouts, and chives. The pancake is usually served with a side of fresh vegetables and a tangy fish sauce for dipping.
Bai Mon (Chicken Rice)
Bai Mon is a simple and tasty dish typically eaten for breakfast in Cambodia. It’s made of fragrant jasmine rice cooked in chicken stock and served with slices of juicy, marinated chicken on top. The dish is usually accompanied by a side of fresh cucumber slices, tomatoes, and a flavorful ginger fish sauce.
Chive cakes are a popular breakfast street food in Cambodia. Made from rice flour and filled with fresh chives, these cakes are pan-fried until they’re crispy on the outside but still soft and chewy on the inside. They are usually served with a tangy, sweet dipping sauce that perfectly complements the savory flavor of the chives.
Prahok Ktis is a traditional Cambodian breakfast dish that may be an acquired taste for some. It’s a thick dip made from fermented fish paste (prahok), minced pork, coconut milk, and kroeung, a blend of Cambodian spices. It’s usually served with an assortment of fresh and steamed vegetables for dipping.
Khao Tom is a simple yet satisfying rice soup that’s commonly eaten for breakfast in Cambodia. The soup is made from fragrant jasmine rice and usually includes small pieces of meat like pork or chicken and some vegetables. It’s a light and comforting meal to start the day with.
These dishes offer a great variety of Cambodian breakfast foods, each unique and delightful in its own way.
Best Breakfast Spots in Phnom Penh
After exploring the range of Cambodian breakfast dishes, let’s now delve into the best places to enjoy them in Phnom Penh.
- Sistersrey Cafe: Located near the riverside, Sistersrey Cafe is known for its great atmosphere and diverse breakfast menu. They offer both traditional Cambodian dishes and western options.
- Lot 369 Cafe & Bar: This popular spot is great for those looking for a blend of Cambodian and western breakfast options. It offers vegan and gluten-free options and is praised for its coffee.
- Feel Good Cafe & Coffee Roasters: Known for its top-quality coffee, Feel Good Cafe also serves a wide range of breakfast items. It’s a great place to try a traditional Nom Pang sandwich.
- Vibe: If you’re looking for healthy options, Vibe is a plant-based cafe offering an array of breakfast choices that cater to a variety of dietary needs.
- Eleven One Kitchen: This is the place to go if you want to try a local breakfast like Bai Sach Chrouk. Their mission is to serve healthy Cambodian food using organic ingredients.
Cambodian Breakfast Culture
Breakfast in Cambodia is an essential daily ritual that’s enjoyed at home or on the go. Street food stalls, bustling with activity from the early morning hours, are popular breakfast spots. People from all walks of life congregate to enjoy their first meal of the day, sharing tables and engaging in lively conversations. The dishes, often cooked right in front of you, are fresh, nutritious, and affordable.
This communal dining experience creates a warm sense of community, making breakfast in Cambodia not just about the food but also about connecting with people.
Cambodian Cuisine and Breakfast Cuisine Influences
Cambodian cuisine, also known as Khmer cuisine, has a rich and diverse culinary heritage. Influenced by the country’s history and geography, it has elements of Indian, Chinese, and Thai cuisines, as well as a noticeable French influence due to the colonial past. This fusion of cultures can be seen in breakfast dishes such as Num Banh Chok, a noodle dish with a curry reminiscent of Indian flavors, and Nom Pang, a Cambodian sandwich that is a clear nod to French cuisine. Despite these influences, Cambodian breakfast has a distinct identity that proudly represents its own culinary traditions.
FAQs on Best Breakfast Phnom Penh
- What time is breakfast usually eaten in Cambodia? Breakfast is usually eaten early in Cambodia, often starting from 6:00 am.
- Is Cambodian breakfast spicy? While some breakfast dishes like Kuy Teav can be spicy, many are not. However, chili sauces are often available for those who prefer an extra kick.
- Are vegetarian options common for breakfast in Cambodia? While many traditional Cambodian breakfast dishes include meat or fish, it is possible to find vegetarian options, especially in cafes and restaurants catering to tourists. Dishes like Bobor can be made vegetarian-friendly, and plant-based cafes like Vibe offer a range of vegetarian and vegan breakfast options.
Uniquely Cambodian Breakfast Drinks
Cambodian breakfast isn’t complete without a traditional drink. The most common breakfast drinks in Cambodia are:
- Cambodian Iced Coffee: Known as Gah-fay dtock gok, this drink is made with robusta coffee beans, condensed milk, and served over ice. It’s a strong and sweet way to kickstart the day.
- Tea: Tea is a popular drink throughout the day in Cambodia. For breakfast, it’s often served hot with milk and sugar.
- Fresh Fruit Juices: Given Cambodia’s tropical climate, a variety of fresh fruit juices are widely available and are a refreshing addition to breakfast.
Final Thoughts on Breakfast in Cambodia
Embarking on a breakfast journey in Cambodia lets you experience not only the country’s delicious food but also its vibrant culture. Whether you’re enjoying a simple plate of Bai Sach Chrouk or sipping on a traditional iced coffee, you’re participating in a culinary tradition that is an essential part of Cambodian life.
Breakfast in Cambodia offers a wealth of delightful flavors to start your day. From traditional Khmer noodles to heart-warming porridge, these dishes will captivate your taste buds. When in Phnom Penh, make sure to visit the breakfast spots we’ve recommended for an authentic and delicious experience. As the saying goes, “Eat breakfast like a king,” and there’s no better place to do it than in Cambodia.