It is surprisingly easy to live a vegetarian lifestyle in Phnom Penh. The catch is, however, that even though a majority of Phnom Penh restaurants serve some meatless food, the courses are often prepared in the same wok as meat-or even served with fish sauce.
But for those who know where to go, there are quite a number of excellent, vegetarian restaurants.
One of the best is Chinese-Buddhist establishment Miao Xiang Vegetarian Restaurant on Monivong Boulevard near the intersection with Mao Tse-tung Boulevard.
The family-owned veggie place is easily overlooked because the small English sign on the street only says “Vegetarian Restaurant.”
But the food speaks for itself, particularly the hot pot.
Served only from 5 pm to 9 pm, the scalding hot pot full of broth arrives at the table accompanied by mushrooms, noodles, tofu and lots of greens. In which order and how much of each ingredient is going in the soup is a matter of taste, but it is very hard to destroy this dish as everything served is fresh and well prepared.
If not in a hot-pot mood, the Chinese noodles come highly recommended, as do the roast veggie meatballs served with a strange but reasonably tasty version of “French fries”—boiled potato slices wrapped in dough and stir-fried.
Another novelty at Miao Xiang is the chicken legs, comprised of tofu in the signature chicken-leg teardrop shape wrapped around a stick in place of the bone.
Apart from that, the menu basically consists of veggie versions of well-known Chinese courses: noodle soup, roasted or steamed dumplings, tofu, mushrooms and fried rice-all served with a generous amount of greens.
If in need of a more bubbly setting, Love Power Coffee Cafe, located on the second floor of the Parkway shopping center on Mao Tse-tung Boulevard, is a very colorful place to enjoy vegetarian dinner. The cafe is not quite as psychedelic as the name suggests, but the kitschy pop music and the knick-knack decor creates a light, bubblegum atmosphere. The menu is quite creative and features a great variety of meals: strawberry toast, black sesame porridge, fried faux-chicken, a three-meat set (three kinds of fake meat, salad and rice) and a voluminous selection of bubble teas. Perhaps due to the size, there are misfits on the menu (the fried faux-meat “pills” for instance), but they just need to be ignored. Focus instead on the veggie hamburger, the fake meats or the curry, which are the gastronomic stars here. A noticeable detail is that the food is served in peculiar but colorful china, which adds to the whole Love Power experience. With prices that vary from $0.70 to around $2 for large meals, it is very hard not to feel the love.