In Cambodia, Phnom Penh is known for its great restaurants. And since many of the city’s eateries are run by NGOs or function as social enterprises – companies that operate for profit while providing a social benefit – it’s easy to combine social responsibility with sustenance. Here, a sampling of Phnom Penh restaurants that allow you to eat ethically.
As the name implies, Friends is a popular, cheerful café run by local non-profit Mith Samlanh, in partnership with international NGO Friends International. Street children and other marginalized youth are trained in every aspect of running a restaurant in Phnom Penh, from cooking to serving to management. Many move on to higher-paying hospitality jobs, or start small enterprises of their own.
Try: Delicious fresh fruit shakes in off-beat combinations.
#215, Street 13Café Living Room
Of the Phnom Penh restaurants, Café Living Room is one of the most popular for ex-pats, serving up a mix of Western and Cambodian dishes using fresh and imported ingredients. The owners employ and pay a fair living wage to graduates of programs that work with vulnerable and at-risk groups.
Try: Substantial western-style breakfasts with fresh preserves.
#9, Street 306
Lotus Blanc is a training restaurant run by Pour un Sourire d’Enfant, a French NGO that tackles hunger and poverty by providing education and skills training to children on the street. All of the restaurant’s servers are enrolled in PSE’s hospitality school, which means the service is impeccable, if sometimes over-the-top.
Try: Deep-fried prawns in tamarind sauce.
#61B, Street 51
Another Mith Samlanh/Friends restaurant, Romdeng provides upscale dining in a beautiful colonial mansion and garden in the heart of Phnom Penh. The restaurant’s interior is outfitted with locally produced furniture and décor, including silk from Mith Samlanh’s sewing vocational school and paintings from the art classes at their training center.
Try: Romdang’s famous fish amok, a spicy fish curry served in a banana leaf with a side of jasmine rice. The adventurous can also try one of Cambodia’s most popular children’s snacks: fried tarantula.
Sugar ‘n Spice Café at Daughters Cambodia
For the best brownie in Phnom Penh, head to Sugar ‘n Spice Café, a restaurant on the second floor of the Daughters Cambodia visitor center. A Christian organization that works with women who have been trafficked, Daughters also sells fairly produced goods, operates a small salon, and provides an informational exhibit on trafficking in Cambodia.
Try: The brownie with ice cream, washed down with an iced Khmer coffee.