When you think of Cambodia, it’s likely that one of two things come to mind: maybe you’re old enough to remember or have learned about the horrors of the Cambodian Civil War, or – if you’re fortunate to not know that dark chapter – you might think of the beautiful temples splashed across the screens of social media. There’s much more to this country, including its culinary heritage – which it’s no surprise that Tony Bourdain wanted to experience, given his love of Southeast Asia and its many cuisines.
Anthony Bourdain visited Cambodia twice, ten years apart. His first visit became two episodes in A Cook’s Tour; ten years later, he returned to film season 7 (episode 2) of No Reservations. He went from a young and budding writer, fresh off the success of Kitchen Confidential to a wiser and more introspective man. On both occasions, however, he was hungry and eager to try Cambodian cuisine.
In this article, you’ll learn all of the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Cambodia during his visits, to serve as inspiration for your own trip if you’re planning one. (These places are organized alphabetically rather than chronologically – you’ll need to watch the episodes if you want to see them in order.)
Want to watch the episodes where Anthony Bourdain visits Cambodia?
The A Cook’s Tour episodes are available on Amazon (for free!), and the No Reservations episode is available on Amazon, Hulu, and Apple TV.
In the south of Cambodia, close to Vietnam, Bourdain visits a city named Kampot. The area is mostly known for its pepper plantations, but it once had a rich Chinese history. Tony discusses the history over lunch with a politician at the TA EAO Restaurant. Together they enjoy Kampot Pepper Crab, a local specialty.
I’ve written a complete guide to where Anthony Bourdain ate in Phnom Penh, though admittedly the list is quite small and I’ll cover the basics here as well:
- Psar Thmei (Central Market) – As Cambodia’s capital city, it’s not surprising that Tony ate many of his meals in this city, particularly in the Central Market. This market is the place to be in Phnom Penh. The buzzing atmosphere hosts countless vendors selling different treats and meals. Here Tony ate Ka Tieu soup, crickets, fried hens, tripe, and other street foods.
- Happy Pizza – Tony closes his No Reservations episode with an entire pizza pie from Happy Pizza. It’s called Happy Pizza because of the special herb added that can make one very happy… (You can probably guess which herb that is!)
A border town with Thailand, the cuisine in the Cambodian town of Pailin has an obvious Thai influence. Unable to visit a casino he originally intended to, Tony settles for a small restaurant called Hang Meas Restaurant where he enjoys spicy Thai chicken and tom yum soup. (Let this serve as inspiration to also visit Thailand while you’re in the region!)
As part of the A Cook’s Tour episodes, Tony and his old friend Phillipe dine at the Grand Hotel d’Angkor. The duo indulges in traditional Khmer cuisine. Tony is fascinated by an intricate egg roll filled with beef, mushrooms, and peanuts. ‘So what it’s an eggroll. It’s a damn good one.’
Lemongrass soup, stir-fried beef, and a beautifully steamed grouper with vegetables and chili sauce close the meal.
Local Dining Experiences Tony Had in Cambodia
While none of these meals were at restaurants you can visit, they were local experiences that you could perhaps recreate if desired – or order if you see similar dishes on a restaurant menu while eating elsewhere in Cambodia.
- Coastal market crab picnic in the town of Kep
- Sandwich from a boat vendor on the river
- A bowl of noodles from a vendor in Battambang
- A beef stew at an unnamed rice farm
While Anthony Bourdain may have been a bit critical of Cambodia during his first visit, he absolutely loved it ten years later. Now another 10+ years on from Tony’s last trip, you’ll undoubtedly discover new magic there for yourself during a visit.
Have any questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Cambodia? Let me know in the comments.