3.268 Fried Frog in Khmer Spices

Cycle 3 – Item 268

29 (Sat) September 2012

Fried Frog in Khmer Spices


at Sky High Bar & Restaurant

-Phnom Penh, Cambodia-

with KSY, YL, BS

Research Trip to Cambodia + Lao PDR: Day 2 of 6

In Phnom Penh.  Here to meet with legal experts in the Ministry of Health and the National Assembly to gather information as part of a long-term project sponsored by WHO to assess health legislation in countries across the Western Pacific Region, starting with Cambodia.   Afterwards, we’ll drop by Vientiane to meet with the WHO Country Office about how to structure the engagement with Lao PDR.


We’re staying at the Royal Mekong Boutique Hotel.  Just US$24, half the rate of what appears to be the sweet spot of US$50 for a standard single room per night in the city.  With a single dollar going a long way here, that lower price point constituted significant savings, which could be applied towards more important things, like food and booze.  And due to a fortuitous booking error, the hotel upgraded me to a junior suite, so I really got my money’s worth.  Money aside, the hotel lived up to the 4 Cs of hotel criteria: clean, comfortable, convenient, cool/classy/cute.

Not much to look at from the outside, something of a hidden gem.
The “junior suite” wasn’t actually a suite, just a larger room.
The small if sufficient dining hall in the lobby.

Unlike other hotels offering complimentary breakfast buffets, this place had a made-to-order menu consisting of local and international morning dishes.  Even though service did require a few minutes for the food to be prepared, I appreciated having a choice of what to eat.  I also appreciated the reduction in waste.

Given all the choices, I tend to prefer broth in the morning, preferably with noodles, so I look forward to ordering #5 every morning, alternating from beef to chicken to pork.  

#5 Chinese Noodle Soup with Chicken (2.0): similar to pho, but lighter; in any case, way better than the instant cup noodles that I brought from Korea.
Fresh fruit, like this dragonfruit, are available buffet style.


Orchidee is a Cambodian restaurant.

Located directly across the alley from the hotel, like 10 meters away, and recommended by the front desk, Orchidee was an easy choice of venue for lunch.

Judging by the decor, which looked like a swanky resort, the restaurant is clearly targeting tourists/expats.

Being my first real exposure to Cambodian cuisine, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  It turns out that the food shares a lot in common with the culinary traditions of neighboring countries, especially Thailand.  Our local contact – BS, who will be our on-going focal point in Cambodia for the research – would later inform me that many dishes popularized globally as “Thai” would be considered “Cambodian” by the natives.  Dishes heavily influenced by Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine are also very commonplace.  So, a majority of the dishes on the menu were very familiar.

Indeed, tourist/expat-friendly menus with photos and English descriptions.

And for someone accustomed to the exorbitant food prices in Korea (and certain other parts of the world), I was shocked at how cheap everything was – dishes ranging between US$3-$6 (most things here are charged in US dollars) – even though such prices would be regarded as expensive by domestic standards.

What a great meal.  Welcome to Cambodia!

Korean soju – just $3.50 a pop!


Sky High Bar & Restaurant is a high-end Cambodian bar and restaurant.  Traditional dishes, modern presentations, Western prices – customers primarily comprising tourists/expats.

Located on the top floor of Mekong View Tower, a high-rise condo building.
Distant but grand view of Phnom Penh’s expat/tourist popular Sisowath Quay (Riverside) across the Mekong River.

When we asked BS to recommend somewhere nice for our welcome dinner, Sky High Bar & Restaurant was the nicest place that he could think of.

If only to add another animal to GMTD’s list of Ingredients, I tried the frog.  Among the 3 types of preparation offered on the menu, I chose the one featuring Khmer spices, wanting it to be as authentically Cambodian as possible.  When the dish came, I was surprised to see that it wasn’t just the legs but also other parts of the body, including little pieces of spine, which I thought would make for a cooler if grislier photo.  At first bite, the spices were all I could taste, extremely rich and flavorful, typical of the curry-like melange found in many dishes throughout Southeast Asia.  But then, after a few serious chews, the frog came through.  When I visualize a frog living in a pond, and I imagine what it might taste like, that’s what this tasted like: slimy and swampy.  BS noted that frog should taste clean.  He speculated that, while frog is fairly popular at casual, country-style restaurants, the customers at this relatively upscale establishment would tend to opt for fancier fare, leaving the kitchen’s frog supply untouched and kept too long on ice and thus less than optimally fresh.  I couldn’t get past a half-bite.  Oh well.  The rest of the dish was fine, as a salad.  At least it was only US$4.

The most popular local beer is Angkor, a hoppy lager – pretty good.

Amok Trey is a Cambodian dish.  Consists of fish, seasoned with kroeung – a Cambodian spice paste – then steamed in coconut milk, often served in a coconut shell.   One of Cambodia’s national dishes.

Amok Trey (4.0)

The amok trey was awesome.  Tender chunks of sweet, delicate fish.  Rich, creamy, spicy sauce, reminiscent of a yellow Thai-style curry.  One of the most amazing first experiences with a dish in my life.  It was the only impressive dish of the spread, but so good that it elevated the entire meal.



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