Running Amok In Phnom Penh

There can be a lot of argument about what is the best restaurant in Phnom Penh, as especially over the last three to four years, there are an increasing number of higher end restaurants popping up around the city – and some of them are quite good.

But for us at Walking The Earth to consider a restaurant great, we are looking for a few key things.

One, is it authentic? Or better yet – family owned? We want to have the person who owns the restaurant cook the meal. There’s nothing we love better than having the wife cook and the husband hostess, and if the kids are helping out after school, that makes us happy.

Two, we don’t mind sharing the place with like-minded travelers, but we really don’t want to share the place with a busload of tourists and / or anyone who complains about the bad English on the menu, or that the food comes out too fast or too slow.

Three, if those two key filters are meet, then we are usually looking at great food, at great value and it’s casual and fun and then often meets the criteria that is the one we look for more than anything – is it where we go our last meal in town?

Kabbas in Phnom Penh checks all the boxes.It’s a delightful small spot opposite the more popular and well known Friends Restaurant (which we definitely believe in supporting, just not when the crowds descend.) Or better yet, enjoy your meal at Kabbas and then do some shopping at new Friends Store across the street.

Is Kabbas our favorite restaurant in Phnom Penh? Absolutely. And one of the reasons, is that it has the best amok in town and we are very much amok fans. As evidently are the hundreds of people who leave notes on the walls of the dining  room when done.

What exactly is amok? And why is it so good?

First of all, amok is simple. The recipe typically has lemongrass, lime leaves, fish sauce, sugar, turmeric and chilies. That all becomes a paste and you add, traditionally, fish, but these days there is often chicken amok or tofu amok. Toss in a little coconut cream and you are done

Amok, especially fish amok will be served in banana leaves which can double as a steamer for the fish. Amok comes with rice and being Cambodian, the peppers are on the side so you decide how hot you want it. It doesn’t take much time in Cambodia to realize how serious the Khmer Rouge were about destroying the country and sadly, even the traditional meal of amok fell somewhat victim to the horrors. All the cookbooks and written history of cookbooks were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge so now, people are cooking from memory and in fact, rewriting what Cambodian cooking is and will be.

At Kabbas, they make it with locally sourced tofu and it’s to die for. Especially when served with fresh made lime juice and the total bill is under $6. Kabbas is located downtown just a block away from the National Museum opposite the Friends complex. It has great WIFI but is a better place to sit and read the news. There is indoor and outdoor seating and fans when it’s hot.

Kabbas is also just a few blocks away from The Plantation which I think is the best value in Phnom Penh. Our last meal in town was with our friend Paul Abrams, we had hit some other local spots and even the newer beautiful places like Chinese House, but in the end, we agreed.

Kabbas is the best restaurant in Phnom Penh.


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