Local food Cambodia
Dining one night in the street of Phnom Penh

Planning a DIY trip is always fun. You would never know what awaits, what to expect, or what will happen, you only have a foresight of the thrill, of discovering things on your own.

All my trips abroad were DIY travels and all have hilarious stories to tell. 

Discovering Cambodia's capital

When I first stepped out to the streets of Phnom Penh three years ago, I was surprised to see how Cambodia is still lagging behind in modernity. Theirs is still a city of contrast to typical urban living.

Something I understood anyway. 

Cambodia has been isolated from the rest of the world for years. Its prime minister, Pol Pot, started a crazy regime called Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, a kind of regime described as paranoid, xenophobic, extremely brutal, and repressive. 

He jailed the opposition and started a killing rampage on his political opponents. Cambodia was plunged into darkness. Its people were forced to move back to the countryside and endured life in massive poverty.  

When the Vietnamese liberated the country from the persecution of mad governance, it was a bit late. Cambodia struggled in almost all facets of life, trying to catch up with economic growth and bridge foreign relations, From education to foreign trade, and social development to their overall lifestyle. 

In fact, their currency was largely devalued it was a bit hard to find money changer outlets in the Philippines and Vietnam selling Cambodian Riel.

This painful truth of being underdeveloped is nagging all over Cambodia. Throughout the suburbs, the countryside, and the city streets. 

During our visit in 2015, fear was lurking behind us. The streets were dark and establishments looked spooky. 

Local food Cambodia
Dining at Phnom Penh's street

But there was something about Cambodians that I truly admired and made me appreciate their culture more - Their smile, hospitality, and their very warm personality.

Locals were very accommodating when we asked for a direction. Though I could feel their inferiority towards foreigners, perhaps due to their inability to speak English, they were welcoming and gave their best smiles. This was evident when we had dinner at a local eatery.

Local food Cambodia
Trying local food stall at Phnom Penh

Extremely hungry due to our long hours of land travel from Saigon, Vietnam, plus the challenge of looking for a money changer outlet, we were literally desperate to have dinner. 

We walked to the first dining place we saw. And because we wanted to try the local dish, we resolved to order what was on the local menu.

It was a bit struggle trying to emphasize what we wanted, or at least asked what was on the menu. Inquiring about the exact price per plate was another struggle, so we communicated through sign language. 

But when you're hungry you would never mind the inconvenience. Rowie was less than impressed but I was enthusiastic 😄

Local food Cambodia
Vietnamese roll

So we were offered a dish that was so literally foreign. A soft jelly rolled into what looked like a flour paste topped with tofu and sprinkled with shallots. 

The order came with a free tea. My two friends were hesitant to take the food but I was ecstatic. Not because I was bloody hungry, but because I was excited to feed my gourmand adventure hankering.

Local food Cambodia

While my two friends cringed in dissatisfaction, I was overwhelmed by this food discovery. My taste bud is very oriental and this food appeared to be thoroughly oriental. And trying local dishes has been part of my goal as a gourmand traveler, naturally, I find this mysterious dish interesting.

The owners were very accommodating, giving us their warmest smiles even though they kept on scratching their heads when I asked them what's the name of the food. 

The language barrier challenge was real 😂 And we left the place without getting a clear answer about the name of the food we'd just eaten.

Local food Cambodia
The unknown dish 😄

Until now I am searching for the exact name of this dish. The only clear explanation I got from the lady was that the food actually originated from Vietnam, thus, known locally as a Vietnamese roll. 

So if anybody knows the name of this fantastic dish, kindly comment below. Or give us a message on our facebook page  Gourmand Travel Guide Thank you!!!

For the expanded version of the story of my Phnom Penh travel experience, and what you need to know about taking precautions when going to Cambodia, please visit this link: A Day in Phnom Penh