I'm a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia, who enjoys writing about the things I love: travel, nature-based activities, the arts, spirituality and creative, fun activities for children.
Published May 29th 2017
Savour The Flavour Of Cambodia
Located in Cambodia's north-west, just a short tuk-tuk ride from the ancient temple complex of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap has become a hot travel destination for hundreds of thousands of international visitors every year. A small city with a population estimated to be around 250,000, it delights visitors with its intriguing fusion of traditional Cambodian and colonial French architecture, rich cultural traditions, lively markets and ancient temples. However, a sojourn in Siem Reap can present a challenge for vegetarian and vegan travellers, as traditional Cambodian cuisine relies heavily on meat, fish and eggs, and very few local eateries cater exclusively to the needs of those who choose to eschew them. Thanks to a tip from some fellow vegetarian travellers, during a recent sojourn in Siem Reap I managed to solve this dilemma and discovered one of the city's best and most popular vegetarian cafes – Peace Cafe.
Located in a peaceful part of town, approximately two kilometres from central Siem Reap, Peace Cafe embraces an ethos of non-violence, fair trade, environmental sustainability and spirituality that is strongly influenced by the Buddhist tradition. Its setting, within a traditional wooden Cambodian house surrounded by a large peaceful garden, is tranquil and picturesque, making it an ideal spot to unwind after an energetic day of exploration. Most of the cafe's tables are located within the shady garden, although there are a few under shelter, which come in handy on hot or rainy days. At the centre of each table is a beautiful quote, focusing of spirituality, peace, positivity and other thought-provoking topics - setting the scene for a culinary experience that is far from ordinary.
The menu offered by Peace Cafe is comprehensive, including cruelty-free versions of traditional Cambodian dishes, other Asian cuisines and international fare. I particularly loved their version of Amok – arguably Cambodia's most popular dish. This iconic curry is cooked in coconut milk, flavoured with lemongrass and kaffir lime, and served in a banana leaf bowl, with tofu and a selection of delicious locally-grown vegetables taking the place of the non-vegetarian ingredients that are traditionally used.
Other popular local delights are Khmer red curry, Khmer Kreung Khtis, Khmer Style Sour Soup and Samlor Korko Khmer. As the old saying goes – 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do' – and Peace Cafe enables roaming vegan and vegetarian foodies to sample traditional Cambodian delicacies in a way that doesn't compromise their lifestyle choice. As well as Cambodian meal options, the cafe offers various other popular Asian dishes, and is particular renowned for its yummy Japanese meal options including sushi, Onigiri rice balls and edamame and miso soup.
Those who prefer more familiar food, or are families with fussy young children, will also appreciate the fact that the cafe provides a wide selection of Western meals including several varieties of vegie burger, French fries and spaghetti – not to mention a selection of mouth-watering sweeties such as cakes, slices, cookies, crepes and ice-cream.
Peace Cafe also provides many yummy food choices for the health conscious. If crisp salads and delicious fresh fruit juices are what you're craving, this is definitely the place to be. The salad options are out of this world – ranging from Western favourites like Brown Rice Salad and avocado salad to Oriental delicacies such as Indonesian Gado Gado, Banana Flower Salad and Green Papaya Salad. Many kinds of delicious fruit and vegetable juices are also offered, as well as smoothies, yoghurt shakes and fruit shakes. In a nutshell, this place is awesome, and really has something for everyone.
Needless to say, Peace Cafe has a glowing reputation around Siem Reap – especially amongst the local expat community, who frequent it in droves. An increasing number of international tourists are also discovering its attractions – and surprisingly, not just for the food. In addition to the delicious meals that it offers, Peace Cafe is also the hub of a bustling community centre that offers classes in yoga, meditation, Khmer (Cambodian) language and even vegetarian cooking classes, so you can learn how to recreate some of the sumptuous dishes that are prepared in the cafe. An especially popular program is the 'Monk Chat' – an opportunity for guests to talk to the monks from the local Buddhist pagodas.
A sojourn at Peace Cafe is a unique opportunity for meaningful cultural exchange, providing visitors to Siem Reap with the chance to experience Cambodian life up close and learn about aspects of it that they may otherwise overlook. For example, not only are travellers introduced to the Khmer language at the cafe, but local people (especially the young) also have the chance to learn English there.
Fair Trade is also an integral part of the Peace Cafe ethos, and there's a lovely little gift shop adjacent to the cafe that sells a terrific selection of locally-produced wares that have been made by local Siem Reap artisans. With exquisite handcrafts ranging from wooden figurines, silk scarves, ceramics, books, bags and home-wares, it's a good spot to pick up some gifts and souvenirs while you're waiting for your meal to be served.
In conclusion, if you're looking for a peaceful and uplifting spot to recuperate at after your energetic adventures throughout Angkor Wat, the Peace Cafe could be just what you're looking for. Close to down-town Siem Reap yet far enough away to be out of the noisy rat-race, it offers delicious and healthy vegetarian and vegan meals at a very reasonable price – and so much more. A tranquil sanctuary, with a strong emphasis on cultural exchange, fair trade, animal rights and spirituality, it provides the opportunity to learn more about this fascinating region as well as support some of its most vulnerable residents.
Peace Cafe is located on River Road, next to Ann Kau Saa Pagoda in Krong Siem Reap. Most tuk-tuk drivers know where it is. To find out more, take a look at the Peace Cafe website, or call them on 855 63 965 210