Introduction to Khmer Cuisine, Chanrey Tree, Siem Reap, Cambodia

I had my first taste of Khmer cuisine when I visited Siem Reap nine years ago. To me, Khmer cuisine is something between Thai and Vietnamese food. It’s not as spicy as Thai food but bolder than Vietnamese food. Hence, for those with a milder palate, Khmer cuisine can be a nice alternative.

I made it a point to try as many Khmer eateries during my most recent trip to Siem Reap. Unlike nine years ago, there are more mid-to-upscale Khmer restaurants in Siem Reap this time. Chanrey Tree is one of the more popular Khmer restaurants that fall into this category.

The lush and contemporary environment at Chanrey Tree, Siem Reap

We arrived on a Saturday evening and the restaurant was pretty busy. Located in a two-storey building, the restaurant has a nice contemporary feel to it. There is an outdoor seating area for those who prefer to dine under the stars, an indoor but non-air conditioned dining hall at the back of the building and also a cooler indoor dining room on the second level of the building.

Inside Chanrey Tree

My partner and I ordered a starter, two mains and a soup to share. The Beef Salad is similar to a Thai beef salad. I love the thin strips of beef which are flavourful. The salad has more fresh herbs such as parsley, kaffin lime leaves, and lemongrass when compared to its Thai counterpart. I particularly enjoy the crunchy bite from the generous amount of peanuts in the salad.

Beef Salad

When in Cambodia, one must definitely try the Grilled Stuffed Frog. The frog is stuffed with pork and frog meat. On its own, the grilled stuffed frog is great. But it tastes even better with the accompanied black pepper and tomato sauce. You will not regret eating this only if you can ignore the fact that you’re biting into a frog carcass. Sometimes, great food may not look equally pleasing.

Grilled Stuffed Frog

Unfortunately, the Stir-fried Green Kale did not impress just as much. Although the vegetables are fresh and crunchy, I felt that overly generous use of oyster sauce made this dish a tad too salty. Having said that, the sauce has more dimensions as black pepper and garlic are added to provide more depth to an otherwise unexciting dish.

Stir-fried Green Kale

Unlike the common soup, Khmer soup has much less fluid and would probably refer as gravy by most of us. We were advised by our server to select pork ribs for the Khmer Jungle Sour Soup as it tastes better as compared to chicken, beef or fish. The slightly creamy soup reminds me of the Thai Tom Yum soup. But it’s a tad sweeter and sour and not as spicy. Although the soup is delicious, the pork ribs didn’t have much meat and were mainly bones.

Khmer Jungle Sour Soup

Of course, we had to try the local desserts. I had the Khmer Delicacy, which is made up of a fried sticky rice, taro and young coconut slices ball with a scoop of coconut sorbet. I like the accompanied pineapple jam and the light coconut sorbet as they balance the dense rice and taro ball.

The Mango and Sticky Rice is similar to the Thai version although in addition to mango, jackfruit and longan were added to give the dessert more texture and flavour.

Mango and Sticky Rice

Chanrey Tree is a fine restaurant although I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite. For those who are new to Khmer food, Chanrey Tree is a good place for you to begin your discovery.

Chanrey Tree
Pokombo Avenue, along river,
50 metres before Preah Phrum Rath Pagoda
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Tel: +855 63 76 79 97

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