Tag Archives: street food

Central Market makeover

Central Market or Psar Thmei

Central Market or Psar Thmei

Constructed in 1937, Central Market or known as Psar Thmei is one of the must-see attractions of Phnom Penh with it’s iconic art-deco dome. Originally the market consisted of the dome and 4 wings that jutted out from it, over the years the space in between the wings were filled with vendors plying their wares.

Three Central Market images

Before, during and after renovation

In 2009, the French Development Agency gave it a badly needed 4 million dollar facelift where the tin roof stalls in between the wings were torn out and replaced with more permanent structures. One huge improvement to the market was the new food stalls located on the west side of the market. I generally don’t like eating in markets in Phnom Penh as they tend to be a bit dark and dingy for my sensibilities but after experiencing the stalls at Central Market, I think I could make one exception. Considering how busy the market was, I think the renovations were a complete success.

The food stalls inside Central Market

Not a tissue in sight on the floor

The variety of food at the market is staggering, catering to both locals and tourists. Bryse and I first started our journey at a snack stall where we ordered some great fried spring rolls stuffed with tarot (1,000 Riel each) and deep fried vegetables covered with fish paste (4,000 Riel for a set).

Vegetables battered in fish paste

Vegetables battered in fish paste

By that time, we had some company in the form of Bryse’s family that came on over to visit. Bryse’s brothers are foodies, so they were definitely into checking out the local fare. The problem was finding a table large enough to sit the 6 of us!

Luckily, we found one and all it cost was ordering a couple of dishes from the stall that the table belonged to. One of the best things about eating at the markets in Cambodia is that you can pretty much order from any stall in the area and it will be delivered to where you are sitting. Just make sure to order something from the stall that you are sitting in.

Cafeteria style eats at Central Market

Cafeteria style eats at Central Market

We sat at a cafeteria style food stall and ordered fried tofu stuffed with minced pork in a tomato sauce (5,000 Riel) and braised pork belly and bamboo shoot in a coconut caramel sauce (5,000 Riel). This is fare I was very familiar with as my grandmother used to make me these dishes when I was a kid. More on this later.

Tofu just like grandma used to make

Tofu just like grandma used to make

The tofu was pretty amazing but the pork dish was overpowered by the bamboo shoots which I really dislike. During the ordering, I started listening to the stall owners around and realized that most of the stall owners were speaking in Vietnamese which kinda explained the two dishes I had just ordered.

After everyone got their orders, we dug in. A couple of noodle soups, with chicken and beef, some stir-fried noodles and some banh hoi served with pork sausages rounded out the orders. None of the dishes cost more than 8,000 Riel and everyone had a great time sampling some Khmer dishes.

After we finished, I asked Keith (Bryse’s younger brother) if he wanted to try a Khmer dessert. He was definitely game so we walked over to the jelly stand and had a bit of fun ordering some of the slurpy stuff.

Khmer jelly desserts

Khmer jelly desserts

Oodles and oodles of tapioca awaited us while we pointed to what we wanted in our dessert bowls. A little bit of simple syrup, coconut milk and shaved ice completed the concoction (We both shied away from the sweetened condensed milk). I assume he liked it as he finished the whole bowl! I certainly did.

Psar Thmei means New Market in Khmer. It’s strange that the name has stuck with a building that was built over 70 years ago but with the new renovations, it has certainly breathed in new life in the iconic building.

Some more photos from the day:

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Street 51 and 136

A cyclo goes past the Sok San Restaurant on the corner of 51 and 136

A cyclo goes past the Sok San Restaurant on the corner of 51 and 136

Bryse and I had a chance to check out this busy intersection a few weeks ago and were impressed with the amount of culinary options available.

Not a place for quiet reflection, the intersection is constantly busy with traffic whizzing by and people going about their business. Sitting in the heaving Sok San Restaurant for our initial meal of the night, we could tell this was a great spot to experience a bit of local flavor.

Sok San Restaurant

Sok San Restaurant

We only had a couple of dishes at Sok San but they were both excellent and quite cheap. It’s probably best to go with a larger group to get an sampling of the extensive menu.

Stir fried chicken with onions

Stir fried chicken with onions

After our meal and a few beers at Sok San, we headed south on Street 51 to a set of barbecue meat restaurants that looked promising. They did not disappoint.

Meat on a stick

Meat on a stick

Not much variety but who cares when there’s meat on a stick. You get grilled pork or a grilled pork sausage, a spicy sweet mango salad side and a baguette. All for the cheap price of 1,500 riel per skewer.

Grilled meat with some mango salad

Grilled meat with some mango salad

We were a bit shocked with the baguette which we thought was slathered with butter but was actually spread with honey.

A baguette slathered with honey

A baguette slathered with honey

All in all a nice little find if you are interested in a cheap snack.

Next we headed off to Street 136 just east of Street 51 where a bunch of fruit shake and sandwich places dot the sidewalk.

Pate and shake stalls on Street 136

Pate and shake stalls on Street 136

We didn’t get the shakes as I was interested in the sandwiches. I have been searching Phnom Penh for a great sandwich place and was hoping these places would deliver.

Preparing a pate dish on Street 136

Preparing a pate dish on Street 136

Less like sandwiches and more like a pate dish with a baguette on the side, I can’t really fault the quality of the food as it was quite tasty. I just kinda hoped for a banh mi styled sandwich. The pate was nice and flavorful and the pickles offered underneath were nice and crunchy.

Pate and baguette combination

Pate and baguette combination

So there you have it. Not really a review but more like an overview of the different culinary options that dot the area around Street 51 and 136.

Vinh

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