cafe soleil

Travelling around southeast Asia as a vegetarian can sometimes be a struggle. The region is well known for its street food and yet it’s not really possible for vegetarians to eat at popular hawker stalls because the food is usually pretty meaty, and even if it doesn’t appear to include meat or fish, it could well be laden with surprise ingredients such as fish sauce or lard. In Phnom Penh, I wasn’t expecting to uncover much of a vegetarian culture, but to my surprise and delight I found the city to be the easiest place to eat a vegetarian diet on my whole southeast Asian journey. As soon as I dumped my backpack in my guesthouse, I immediately stumbled upon about 4 Vegetarian eateries within a 5 minute walk of where I was staying.

Here are my top picks for vegetarian grub in Phnom Penh:

Mi Chay (St 143)

This is my favourite place to eat in the whole of Phnom Penh and it’s kinda difficult to explain why. The food is not particularly special, and it has the atmosphere of an ‘eat and leave’ local café, and yet Mi Chay has my heart. This place is located just a couple of streets away from where I was staying, and every time I ate there I felt perfectly at home. The menu basically consists of noodles, rice, veggies, and mock meats, and almost all of the meals cost 5000 riel, which is only $1.25. I’ve been away from Phnom Penh for almost a month now and I keep thinking about how much I want to go back and have a simple meal at Mi Chay.

Café Soleil (St 278)

Located on the main expat street, Café Soleil fortunately has local instead of expat prices and the food is amazing to boot. Everything here tastes really fresh and you can get a decent veggie noodle soup lunch for only $2. I’m also particularly fond of their juice combinations – their orange, pineapple and ginger combination always made me feel full of energy.

K’NYAY (Sihanouk Blvd)

K’NYAY, located close to the Independence Monument, is a perfect date place. The interiors are cosy, the food is bloody delicious, and for such a nice restaurant, it is really quite reasonably priced. There are also plenty of Vegan options, so if you stay away from dairy you will have no problem ordering from their menu of Khmer classics. I ordered something with sweet potato and beans (sorry, I can’t remember the name of the dish –oops) and it was one of the best things I ate in Phnom Penh.

Coriander (St 71)

Set along an unassuming street away from the main tourist district of the Riverside, Coriander still remains a popular choice with vegetarians in the city. The green curry that I ordered was absolutely huge and was full of loads of veggies and tofu. Coriander has also recently redesigned its menu and now has a huge section dedicated to veggie Indian food.

Surn Yi Mei Shi Guan (St 184)

This place doesn’t seem to have an overwhelmingly positive write-up online, but I enjoyed the food the one time that I dined here. It’s not a place with an amazing atmosphere, or where people loiter for an hour over their food, but I enjoyed my meal nonetheless. The sheer number of choices is slightly overwhelming, but it’s great if you want to try something new while knowing that everything is 100% veggie. They also have an extensive dessert menu if you have a sweet tooth.

And there you have it – The Vegetarian’s Guide to Phnom Penh.

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