Pub Street/night market area of Siem Reap. If you’ve ever been to Khao San Road in Bangkok, Pub Street is similar–full of overpriced restaurants catering to tourists and the same souvenirs over and over again, except this area stretches for a few blocks. Pub street is fun for the hustle and bustle, if you’re looking for souvenirs, or if you’re feeling homesick and want ice cream or baked goods. Don’t get me wrong, we spent a couple nights here just walking around, and although a lot of travel books and websites recommended restaurants here, if you’re looking for good Khmer food without paying the tourist price, leave this area and walk down just a few blocks.
A 5 minute walk from Pub Street will bring you to this less touristy road where you’ll find smaller budget hotels and more restaurants run by local families.
Chae Ngek has a small storefront and can easily be missed, especially since the banner advertises coca-cola more than the restaurant itself; just look for the large red awning and the famous coke logo.
Most of the dishes at a restaurant on Pub Street will most likely cost you $4-$6 and while that’s not a lot of money for a meal, especially in the US, these are the prices at Chae Ngek. Yup, pretty much everything is $1.50 and those shakes you see everywhere for $1 or even sometimes $2, it’s only 3000 riel (~70cents) here.
I wasn’t kidding when I said pretty much everything here is $1.50, from noodles to rice platters. There are only a few dishes that cost more and “more” here means $1.75-$2.00. Happy wallets.
In the words of a wise friend, good shakes are always about consistency. And this avocado shake was fresh and thick. Unlike smoothies, shakes should be thick (not so much so that you can’t drink it with a straw), but also well-blended. My avocado shake was delicious and refreshing, and for 3000 riel, I got myself a second one.
After a long day of temples, chicken noodle soup might just be one of the best ways to refuel. You’d think that because the prices are so awesome, the portions would be small, right? But nope, I’m a pretty voracious eater and this bowl hit the spot. Plus, as you can tell from the photo, they don’t skimp on meat or veggies.
If you’re only getting one thing here, or even one meal in Siem Reap, you should make it this one. Fried fish lok lak. Similar to your traditional beef lok lak, you have the fried egg, bed of lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. But instead, you get tender, boneless fish marinated in a similar lok lak sauce. This marinade most likely had ketchup though since it was sweeter and lighter in color than most other lok laks. If anyone knows the recipe to this, please do tell; the internet isn’t very generous here. And I’ve been craving this since I left Siem Reap.
Chae Ngek only opens for dinner, in the early evening, but stays open well past midnight. Since our hotel was down the street from here (lucky us!), we passed the restaurant every day. And almost every diner here was local, but occasionally, you’ll catch an expat or tourist, and you’ll meet eye to eye knowing that you two are onto something great.