Siem Reap could rub you the wrong way if you tackle it from a certain angle. Much like Khao San Road in Bangkok, it’s easy to wound up exactly in the wrong place of the city (let’s hypothetically call this place Pub Street) and wonder what could have possibly gone wrong in such a quaint, culturally-rich, and spiritual part of the world. I did it, several people have done it, has Lonely Planet told us to do it? We’ve all got our reasons as to why we ended up in the most touristy and dare I say backpacker-damaged part of Cambodia whilst on the hunt for some vegan Siem Reap snacks.
But once you know, you kinda don’t want to tell others that Siem Reap is the new hotbed for vegan digital nomads and yogis on a budget. A place where you’ll find all the health, wellness, yoga and veganism you were dreaming of finding in Indonesia or Thailand but couldn’t really afford once you started researching. For who knows where to look, Siem Reap unveils itself as a place where all you can eat tofu nuggets rub shoulders with kombucha bars and a seemingly endless selection of socially responsible cafés. Here’s the vegan Siem Reap lowdown. Share responsibly.
Vegan Siem Reap: Where to Eat
1. PEACE CAFE
Peace Café works closely with several local NGOs, providing ongoing employment for local disadvantaged people that are trained by another local NGOs, as well as offering activities to the public (monk talks and yoga being some of them) and an amazing vegetarian and vegan menu, all of this in a wonderful garden. What I really loved were the salads, which you can order in small portion sizes, so you can try several of them at once. Samlor Korko Khmer, a traditional mixed vegetable soup with curry paste and coconut milk is also excellent. Great juice menu, too.
Haven is a social project that teaches all of its employees and offers amazing quality traditional Khmer vegetarian food in Siem Reap, a lot of it vegan. A strong emphasis is also put on sustainability: they use only biodegradable materials in all of their takeaway containers, and source most of their products locally. You really have to try the tofu Amok, Cambodia’s signature curry dish, which is done amazingly well here. There are several great salads on the menu too, as well as a few vegan sweets. Beautiful outdoor seating area.
3. GELATO LAB
Dat chocolate sorbet though. Mind blown. All you need to know. Go there. Have several scoops. Return. Every day. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. There are several other delicious vegan flavors including strawberry, passion fruit, dragon fruit, and mandarine, as well as great coffee, but that’s unimportant. THE CHOCOLATE SORBET. I REPEAT. CHOCOLATE. SORBET. That is all. You’re welcome.
4. VIBE CAFE
Vibe is so cool. Likely the coolest interior in town. On top of that, the food is amazing and all of it is vegan. I was all over their cashew sour cream, the creamiest and tartest dream of cashew creams of all. So, the tacos or the quesadillas are my prime recommendations – especially ordered with a side of extra cashew cream cheese. Or two. Or three. I’m told the burgers are also excellent. Fab drink menu too. Definitely one of my faves.
One of the top restaurants in Siem Reap. Passionate cuisine by a celebrity chef in a wonderfully sustainable hotel, several vegan items already on the menu and many more can be made vegan on request. I recommend the smoked eggplant. Most of the ingredients are grown on-site. Super attentive service. They have gluten-free bread also and amazing swings to sit on pool-side. Also one of the top hotels in Siem Reap. Magical.
Artillery quickly became one of my favourite spots to cowork with friends. They have amazing smoothies, kombucha, a full kale menu (!) at the time of writing, great coffee and fast internet. The interior is cosy and the staff is extremely friendly. A good place to buy some souvenirs too.
7. SISTER SREY
Another wonderful social enterprise that’s here to help Khmer students and have a sustainable impact on the community. Sister Srey has a beautiful interior to linger into for hours as you watch life go by along the river. The raw vegan options are really lovely, especially the cakes. The coffee is also excellent. To top it off, 20% of all profits go towards supporting individuals through education, health, and hygiene, and supports rural families.
8. MORINGA BAR
Lovely British-owned tropical beer garden that serves excellent kombucha and vegan craft beer (a rare occurrence in Asia). Good waste-reduction initiatives, fully vegetarian menu (75% of which is vegan), including full meals and light bites (I’m told the bowls are great, but all I wanted were those damn finger foods!) Great cocktails (including some kombucha cocktail — that’s got to be healthy right?) The stars of the show here are the tofu nuggets in Texas BBQ sauce. HANDS DOWN. Other light bites I really enjoyed include spicy cauliflower bites, smoked eggplant dip, and samosas, but there is so much more. Some of the profits are redistributed to a local charity too. Lovely, innit!
9. BANG BANG
Bang Bang is a German-Canadian-British-Cambodian-owned bakery that offers several vegan baked goods such as sourdough, bagels, and a small selection of vegan cake. If you’ve been in South East Asia for some time, you probably know how difficult it is to find good bread in this part of the world, so fill your boots! It’s also a super lovely place to hang out and work.
10. BABY ELEPHANT
Beautiful colourful tropical garden set around a pool, several Western and Khmer dishes, many many of them available vegan. In fact, the menu is 50% vegan. And they have amazing vegan hot dogs! The Angkor hot dog is the definite star! Great cocktails too, and an amazing place to stay (more on that below).
The kitchen here team prides themselves on sourcing as many of their ingredients as possible from local growers, ensuring that small Cambodian family-run businesses from Siem Reap Province receive their continued support throughout the year. There aren’t that many vegan options on the menu and they are all light bites, but they are clearly marked as VG (them pesto toast pictured are delicious) and the coffee is absolutely bomb. It’s also a great place to come and work. Little Red Fox is also part of the Refill not Landfill project, so fill your water bottle while you’re here!
12. THE HANGOUT
The Hangout is a well-hidden spot in the centre of the old town (there was a hostel attached, and then there wasn’t, but there might be again? Please let me know if you know!) Anyway, their menu features several vegan items, a vegan all-you-can-eat BBQ on Saturday, and all-you-can-eat tofu nuggets every Tuesday. They had me with their tofu nuggets all the sauce options.
13. Chamkar House
A vegetarian restaurant Siem Reap couldn’t do without! Hidden in the middle of the old market around Pub Street in a small back alley, Chamkar is worth finding for the great local vegetarian food Siem Reap specialities they serve. Almost everything is vegan (everything is vegetarian) and I strongly recommend the wedding dip served with a fresh baguette! Yum!
14. Vitking House
I let Paul and Caryl from Vegan Food Quest guide the way through their favorite vegan spots in Siem Reap, having been expats here for over two years. They took me straight to Vitking House, and specifically for the mushroom skewers. Now, do disregard the chewy door stopper knobs at the end of each skewer (I call this type of fake me squeasel — it is repulsive) but the mushrooms were juicy and meaty and spicy and amazing. Gotta trust the local vegans!
WHERE TO STAY: VEGAN AND VEGAN-FRIENDLY HOTELS IN SIEM REAP
Opened in 2015 by a vegan couple, Baby Elephant has so many great things going on at all time, and is always improving and innovating with more. They have just won #9 bargain hotel in the world on Tripadvisor and Travelers’ Choice 2018, and that should speak for itself. The hotel is decorated in springy vibrant modern-kitsch colors with amazing illustrations by artist Tamara Venn, a fantastic pool and restaurant/bar adjacent to it, a yoga studio, spa, silver jewelry workshop, vegan-friendly cooking school, and much more. The hotel has two wings, one is mid-range and the other is more budget and prides itself to be an inclusive, family-friendly and LGBT-welcoming place.
Wonderful conscious owners working on the people-planet-profit model, taking great care of everyone and everything that is around them, guests included.
For something a bit more private and intimate, there’s an all-vegan Airbnb in Siem Reap! Hosted by the lovely Caryl and Paul of Vegan Food Quest whom I have known via the interwebs for as long as I’ve been blogging. Meeting them in person was nothing short of coming face to face with mythological creatures that cook you amazing vegan breakfast and show you all the best spots in town. My own private vegan unicorns! Caryl and Paul were lovely hosts, and sharing a little slice of what it would be like being an expat in Siem Reap, rubbing shoulders with their local neighbors and other expats, was simply delightful. I really want to move to Siem Reap now.
BEST ETHICAL SHOPPING ADDRESSES IN SIEM REAP
Here are a few spots I recommend checking out for locally-made souvenirs
An eco-lifestyle brand using natural, ethical products and empowering local communities through fair-trade employment. Candles, body, skin and hair care products, all hand-made in Siem Reap.
An organic and ethical farm that sells all of their produce on site as well as offering delivery, they also have a beautiful collection of locally made textiles.
Although the Old Market is totally worth a visit for the madness, Made in Cambodia is where you should be heading for nice quality textiles and kramas (the traditional Khmer checker scarf) and for all the local arts and crafts.
MY FAVORITE SPAS IN SIEM REAP
Although it is my belief that nobody should leave without experiencing a cheap foot massage on Pub Street, for a real treat and a properly relaxing experience, head to one of these amazing spots.
Still very affordable despite the luxury feel of the place, you’ll be treated like royalty at this beautiful and relatively new spa. Try the oil-free Khmer massage, a close relative of the Thai massage. Remember that they mean business when they ask if you like it strong. Medium is my recommendation 😉
Tucked in a side street away from any noise, Khmer Relief offers a wide menu of treatments offered in peaceful dimly lit rooms by very friendly and caring staff. Nice fruit and tea at the end of the relaxing treatment.
Ladies, if you’re gonna treat yourself to a blow-out or a facial while you’re here (and you should because it’s so cheap), this lovely beauty school is the place. They have the Saarti product range which is all vegan and the whole experience because it is provided by students, is very sweet and endearing.