The Growth of the Vegan Scene in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Despite living in Cambodia for more than 5 years we don’t spend too much time in Phnom Penh. The odd day when passing through, or when in town for a meeting is about as extensive as it gets. So we’ve watched from afar as the vegan scene in Phnom Penh has grown in line with international trends for plant-based dining options. Recently, a couple of new openings caught our eye and we made sure to pop in and say hi when last in town. Bong Bonlai is located at YK Art House in BKK, and Sacred Lotus Cafe x Homestay is in Toul Tompoung, or better known as the Russian Market. Both offer rooms for guests which makes for a perfect vegan vacation and both are owned and managed by passionate vegans who are doing their bit to enhance the vegan scene in Phnom Penh. So when our good friend Adelle from Ardor SEO offered to write a blog post to help us tell the world just how amazing these places really are we had to say yes. She lives in Phnom Penh and is a regular guest at both locations and is in the perfect position to wax lyrical about why you should check them out next time you’re in Phnom Penh.
What is Bong Bonlai?
Bong Bonlai is a vegan restaurant in Phnom Penh, located at YK Arthouse. They pride themselves on serving delicious and healthy Asian-Mediterranean cuisines and Cambodian street food. Locals and travellers alike flock to this restaurant to dine on nutritious vegan dishes, coffee, in-house baked goods, fresh smoothies, wines, and local craft beers. The sample dishes for their Sunday brunches are $1.00 each, while the juices are priced at $2.50. New customers should try out some of their best-selling dishes, such as coconut pancakes, black bean and avocado toast, and fruit salad with vegan coconut cream. Weekend brunch hours start at 10:30 and brunch is a must for your relaxing Saturday schedule.
Bong Bonlai is a great place to eat and unwind by yourself, with your family, or friends. The restaurant is situated poolside and the trees surrounding the area provide a cool and relaxing atmosphere. The staff has a reputation for being extremely friendly and attentive. The best part about dining in Bong Bonlai aside from the food? Knowing that you’re helping a great cause. They donate a part of their proceeds to the Seametrey Children’s Village, a non-government organization school in Cambodia. They are linked with YK Arthouse, which is accommodation with two locations in Phnom Penh. Offering both apartments and rooms suitable for short and long stays, YK is a wonderful place to spend some time during your trip through Cambodia.
What is Sacred Lotus Cafe x Homestay?
Looking for a mix of plant-based Cambodian and Western dishes? Sacred Lotus will satisfy your cravings. It is a vegan restaurant and guesthouse in Phnom Penh with its own relaxing rooftop space for community events. Sacred Lotus serves delicious yet healthy 100% plant-based dishes, including their coffee and milkshakes. The traditional Khmer pad thai and curry dishes they offer are lovely, and they sometimes make Cambodian desserts that aren’t always on the menu, such as traditional rice and banana-based desserts for the Pchum Ben Day in Cambodia.
If you want to try vegan versions of your favorite western foods, their Mushroom Mince Meat Burger will leave you wanting more. They also have meal deals with burritos, nachos, sweet potato fries, and vegan pizza, and their smoothie bowls are so delicious that you’ll never guess they’re plant-based. Sacred Lotus also occasionally hosts events such as rooftop yoga and guided meditation. The owners are a young Khmer-British couple, the staff is all family, and they can give you advice on where to find vegan versions of Cambodian street food around the local Russian Market. Be sure to check out the shelf of local and sustainable products they offer in the downstairs restaurant. You will find reusable bamboo straws from Suck On That, locally-made sugar syrup, and turmeric powder that’s grown and made in the owner’s hometown, Kampong Cham Province.
How has the vegan scene grown in the last few years?
U.K. nutritionist and raw food chef Emma Fountain is said to have spurred the growth of vegan food in Cambodia. She is very passionate about convincing people to eat clean, which is what birthed the veg-friendly restaurants she opened throughout Cambodia. Emma is the former owner of ARTillery Cafe and currently the manager of the Backyard Cafe. She established Vibe Cafe in Siem Reap in late 2016 and later opened a location in Phnom Penh as well. While Vibe is fully-vegan, the other restaurants are highly veg-friendly while including animal-based options, so ensure you discuss with the staff if you are looking for 100% vegan options.
The dishes made at all three restaurants aim to retain their whole plant-food form, to ensure they are as healthy and clean as possible. Vibe has an agreement to purchase as many of its food supplies from local farms as possible to support the local community. Supporting plant-derived crops and ingredients. The purple Amazonian Açaí smoothie bowl is one of their most popular dishes. It is served in a coconut shell and contains an organic açaí smoothie blend made with bananas and topped with whole food toppings. Their Ritual bowl lunch dish also contains over 95% raw components such as GMO-free tempeh and organic quinoa. It is topped with ingredients like almonds and fermented ginger. These are just two options on their lengthy menu.
Cambodia is officially a must-stop along your vegan travel journey, as the growth of plant-based and veg-friendly restaurants have exploded here over the past few years. Even if you wish to try the local food and traditional Khmer dishes, there are a plethora of Khmer-owned vegetarian restaurants around. You can consult Happy Cow for all your local options, or check out one of the many vegan food guides on the Vegan Food Quest website.
This post is brought to you by the vegan marketing team ar Ardor SEO, who wish to spread awareness of the joy and abundance of eating healthy and compassionate vegan food, and the beauty of supporting vegan businesses. You can learn more about the ways they support vegan entrepreneurs on Ardor SEO’s vegan landing page.
Check out our other Cambodia vegan travel blog posts