Japan has been the top donor to Cambodia for many years in terms of foreign aid, and its people have also brought the gift of their incredible cuisine, much to the delight of local residents and international travellers.
Like Cambodian cuisine, Japanese food focuses on fresh ingredients and quick preparation. And Cambodian restaurateurs have moved quickly to include Japanese items on their menus, even including the use of instant ramen noodles as a substitute for more traditional style rice noodles.
Both cuisines consider fish and rice to be vital parts of the daily diet, but Cambodian’s prefer their food fried, while the Japanese insist on the freshest seasonal ingredients, often raw and with exquisite presentation. The aesthetics of Japanese food play a big part in what makes it unique.
In addition, whereas Cambodian food is on the sweet side of sweet ‘n’ sour, Japanese food tends toward the salty. Both also have ingredients that neither of the other uses, such as bread in Cambodian cuisine and miso paste in Japanese.
On the corner of Sisowath Quay and Suramarit Blvd, Rokku is a stylish restaurant and entertainment centre spread over five levels that will have you hooked after your first visit. The refreshing and creative menu seamlessly blends Japanese and Western elements for a fantastic fusion dining experience, often with live music as an accompaniment. Check out the likes of Fire Dragon Roll, Rib-Eye on Himalayan Salt Block, Spaghetti Shiitake Bolognese, Rokku Wagyu Burger, or fresh oysters, making sure to cleanse the palate with Rokku’s signature sake cocktails.
The Sushi Bar (St. 302 and Tonle Sap Street) serves up some of Phnom Penh’s finest Japanese food in absolutely sumptuous surroundings. Well-established on the capital’s cuisine circuit, the restaurant boasts a series of bento boxes, sashimi, rice and noodle dishes, and several deep-fried tempura battered options.
The highly popular Japanese BBQ chain Gyu-Kaku recently opened its first outlet in Cambodia on St. 370. Cook up your own storm by grilling premium meats over flaming charcoal at your table. Attractively priced lunch sets are available daily from 11am to 5pm, including meats, rice, soup and salad. Amd you wont leave smelling of smoke thanks to the draft down system sucking fumes into the table.
Another international brand, Marugame Udon (St. 63), established itself in Phnom Penh a couple of years back and has been dishing out steaming bowls of freshly made udon noodles in an instant ever since. Simply order one of their delicious plates – such as Kake Udon, katsu curry rice, teriyaki chicken don or spicy kamatama – which generally take mere seconds to arrive, before adding on some extra tempura-battered items and a drink. Fast food how it should be done!
Also keeping up the pace with modern workers’ lunch demands is Poki Poke (Sothearos Blvd and St. 454), which serves traditional and healthy Hawaiian rice bowls called Poké, but with Japanese influences. Customers have their choice of bowl sizes filled with either white or brown rice, and topped with a variety of vegetables, meat (tuna, white fish, chicken, salmon or shrimp), sauces, and condiments.
Meanwhile, you’ll find all the best-known Japanese classics at Sushi Chef (Monivong Blvd and St. 302), including sushi and sashimi, and a long list of different maki rolls: California, tobiko, ebiko, avocado, egg, dragon, tiger, Miami, Kiwi Sunrise, DE Mexican and more.
Dashi on St. 352 is named after the fish and seaweed soup stock favoured in Japanese cooking. The menu is replete with great authentic dishes from Japan, such as the paella-like kammeshi and chirashi sushi, along with some Asian creations like chicken hot pot and fried beef steak with vegetables.
Finally Masamune, a ramen and gyozu bar tucked down Bassac Lane (St. 308), has a well priced menu boasting several delectable options of their signature noodles and dumplings, along with other delights including karaage (deep fried) chicken and
chashu fried rice.