• Go to Home

what to expect

How's the weather?

In a word, HOT. And air conditioning is rare, at best.  So, plan to do some sweating – even if you aren’t digging a hole or lugging bricks.  The roads in the villages are not paved and in the dry season, there is a fine red dust that gets most everywhere. Of course, during the wet season you can image what happens to the fine red dust. That’s right, it gets wet.  But it’s always hot so come prepared to be less “fresh” than you might prefer.  If it helps, you can think of it in terms of sweating the toxins out of your system. You’ll go home healthier than you were when you arrived. But even though you came to work which you most assuredly will do) you will also be encouraged to experience Cambodia in a more leisurely fashion.  All work and no play…you know?  So, the following is a bit of help for you during the non-work time which, on occasion, means eating time.

One of the delights of international travel is sampling the local cuisine. There is no reason to assume that what is available to eat will be anything like what you normally eat. Embrace that. Don’t waste your entire trip wishing for something as ordinary as a McDonald’s cheeseburger or the latest delicacy from Taco Bell. That being said, when you have the opportunity to eat out in Cambodia, you will be most happy with your food choice if you eat what the locals know how to prepare.

The Coffee Shop. During the course of your stay, you may have the opportunity to have breakfast at the village Coffee Shop, as it is called. It in no way resembles any coffee shop you have ever visited – owing mostly to being open air, the lack of booths, and absence of the greasy short order cook. However, dissimilarities aside, a meal at the Coffee Shop may be one of your most enjoyable experiences in Cambodia.

There is only one small problem, however. Hardly anyone speaks English. And why should they? This is Cambodia. Here they speak Khmer and while you’re here, why don’t you give it a shot? Especially since the Coffee Shop has no menus – not even pictures of things at which you can point. This document will help you know what is available to order and how to order it.

How to order food in Khmer from the coffee shop.

The phonetic pronunciation guide is in italics.

Soup (sing ow) – All soups are prepared to order. They don’t open up a big can and leave it on the stove. They all come with meat (small slices of pork and asian meat balls) and garnish (some kind of greenery) so instead of ordering by the meat, you order by what type of noodles you prefer. If you desire no meat and garnish, add the word “sot” at the end of the item.

Egg Noodles: are most similar to what you might find in linguini or fettuccine alfredo (without the alfredo). They are about ¼” wide, quite long and not easily negotiated with a spoon. Use chopsticks. Anyone will be glad to show you how.

Ramen Noodles: Just like what you probably have already had in ramen soup at home – at least four days a week if you’re in college.

Angel Hair Rice Noodles: Very slender and milky white – nearly translucent. Also very long and difficult to handle with a spoon.

Egg Noodle Soup – sing ow mee saw sigh tome (rhymes with Rome)

Ramen Noodle Soup – sing ow mee ma ma

Angle Hair Rice Noodle Soup – sing ow gooey tee oo

EXAMPLE: If you wanted ramen noodles soup without meat/garnish, say “sing ow mee ma ma sot

Fried Noodles (mee chaa) – Again, they come with meat and garnish unless requested otherwise. And again, adding the word “sot” at the end of the order will get you the desired effect.

Fried Egg Noodles – mee chaa saw sigh tome (rhymes with home)

Fried Ramen Noodles – mee chaa ma ma

EXAMPLE: Want fried egg noodles with no meat? Say, “mee chaa saw sigh tome sot.

Eggs (pong mo in) – You recognize these. You can get them in a couple of different ways: fried (over well only), scrambled, and in a sandwich (Not available if the bread truck hasn’t come by. Comes on French bread if it has.). Eggs come one at a time unless you order more than one. You can hold up the number of fingers that matches the number of eggs you want when you order, or you can use the Khmer words for the numbers and attach that to the end. They also come plain – no salt, no pepper, no ketchup, no Tabasco. But, take the opportunity to try the red sauce on the table. It is very mild and slightly sweet. You may find you like it a lot.

Fried Egg – chaa pong mo in (pronounce the “pong” with the po sound of “pore.”)

Scrambled Egg – pong mo in craw lawk (rhyme lawk with hawk.)

Fried Egg Sandwich – pong mo in dat noom pang

One – moo ee

Two – bee

Three – bye

EXAMPLE: If you want two eggs scrambled, say, “pong mo in craw lawk bee”.

Beverages – No juices, no fresh milk, no Sunny Delight. But what they do have…ahhh. There is coffee in several forms, tea, chocolate beverages, and soft drink favorites like Coke and 7Up.

Coffee – (kaf fay). You can get it hot and black (sugar is on the table), hot and with cream with cream, iced and black or iced with sweetened condensed milk.

Tea – Comes regular or strong. If you want it iced, add (tuk gau) at the end.

Chocolate – (mee•lo). A veritable cornucopia of chocolate drinks. Order it hot and plain, hot with sweetened condensed milk, iced and plain, or iced with sweetened condensed milk (the author’s personal favorite).

Hot Black Coffee – kaf fay kuh mow kuh dow (rhyme mow and dow with cow)

Hot Coffee with Sweetened Condensed Milk – kaf fay kuh dow tuk go

Iced Black Coffee – kaf fay kuh mow tuk gau (rhyme mow with cow and say the au in gau like the au in Paul)

Iced Coffee with Sweetened Condensed Milk – kaf fay tuk go tuk gau

Regular Tea – tuk tye

Strong Tea – tye gap

Iced Regular Tea – tuk tye tuk gau

Iced Strong Tea – tye gap tuk gau

Hot Chocolate Plain– mee lo kuh dow (rhyme dow with cow)

Hot Chocolate with Sweetened Condensed Milk – mee lo kuh dow tuk go

Iced Chocolate Plain – mee lo tuk gau (pronounce au in gau like the au in Paul)

Iced Chocolate with Sweetened Condensed Milk – mee lo tuk go tuk gau

Orders for Soft Drinks will be understood in English because the soft drinks have English names. Soft drinks that are available will be readily visible in crates there at the Coffee Shop. They don’t have a wide selection but usually have plenty of whatever they carry. Coke, 7Up, and Mirinda are the general line up. Don’t ask for Dr. Pepper. They don’t carry it. Get over it.

A few additional words/phrases in Khmer you should know.

Yes – baa Hello – joom reap soo uh
No – ah tay Good bye – joom reap lee uh
Please – soam (rhyme with foam) How’s it going? – suk saw bye
Thank you – aw koon Excuse me –sum toe