When I moved to Cambodia I knew there were things that I would miss about living in my home country of America. I assumed I would miss some of the modern conveniences like grocery stores and limitless channels on cable TV. I knew I would miss my friends and my family as well. What I didn’t expect was to miss the bagels. Sure I knew that it would be nigh impossible to find bagels in Cambodia, but I didn’t expect to miss them quite so much. I guess as the child of a two New York Jews who was raised on bagels, I should have known.
Strangely enough, bagels are really the only food I truly miss from back home. Sure it’s hard to find a good slice of pizza, a tender steak, or a sub style sandwich; but in all honesty I barely even miss them. It’s the thought of a dense, chewy bagel that really gets my mouth watering. How many other expats are in this same predicament I don’t know, but for all you who are I figured it’s time to address the problem and help you find the best bagels in Cambodia.
Bagels In Sihanoukville
I live in the beach town of Sihanoukville and I used to go to the Bad Panda restaurant where they served a bagel with lox and cream cheese. When I first saw it on the menu, my eyes almost popped out of my head. I couldn’t believe it, an actual bagel with lox and cream cheese. There must be a good I figured smiling down upon me. Unfortunately that same god decided to rain fiery hell down upon me as within one month of me finding the place, they decided to close shop and I was once again left without bagels in a strange and unusual land.
The Holy Cow
About a month or two later a couple of friends of mine who knew about my quest for a bagel told me they had seen one on offer at the menu of the Holy Cow on Ekreach Street near the Sihanoukville International Clinic. As you might imagine I was up bright and early the next day eager to try one. So I went, I saw, I ate, and I conquered. At the time of writing this article, the Holy Cow is the only place in Sihanoukville where you can get a bagel.
Now, I will warn you. It’s not a great bagel, or even a good bagel. It’s more like bread in the shape of a bagel and they don’t have lox or smoked salmon, but at least they serve it with cream cheese and it’s your only option anyways so take it or leave it because it’s all you get.
Bagels In Phnom Penh: The Hunt Continues
So now I find myself wandering the streets of Phnom Penh still on the hunt for a bagel to satisfy my cravings. I have done some internet legwork and read other expat’s reviews in the same predicament as me. From my research I have found that they best two options for bagels are Joma and Vego Salad Bar. So off I go to start on the fun part of my hunt: trying the bagels.
Joma Bakery and Cafe
Joma is nice because they have multiple locations and as such, are more convenient. I usually stay in the Toul Kork area of Phnom Penh and they have a location just around the corner on Street 528 and 337, but they also have a location on Norodom Blvd at the corner of Street 294. While the bagels aren’t nearly as dense as I would like and they leave a little something to be desired, you can at least get a sandwich with lox and cream cheese. The addition of dill is a nice touch for a little extra flavor. I would compare it to the kind of bagel you can get in a Starbucks back home. In fact I would go so far as to say Joma is basically the Starbucks of Cambodia. Fantastic coffee with food that’s more like an afterthought; prepared long in advance and waiting for you in a deli counter.
Vego Salad Bar
Now for the really good news. There is a place in Phnom Penh where this child of two New York Jews has finally found a place to satisfy that inexplicable need for a bagel. Welcome to Vego Salad Bar. Located in Boeng Keng Kang 1 on Street 294 just up the road from Joma, Vego Salad Bar has a number of bagels to choose from including my favorite the garlic pepper bagel. Reminiscent of an everything bagel I would order in a Jewish deli back home, I can get a proper sandwich with smoked salmon, cream cheese, and capers. It is dense and chewy like a bagel should be and after one bite I knew I would be back. In fact I eat breakfast at Vego almost every day I am in Phnom Penh because I know it will be all too soon I am back in the bageless wasteland called Sihanoukville. In addition to the bagels on offer, their cappuccinos are top notch and they have a number of other tasty looking salads, sandwiches, wraps and more. I say tasty looking because I have never been able to bring myself to order anything but a bagel. What can I say? I’m hooked.
So kids, that’s it in a nutshell. If you find yourself wandering the streets of Phnom Penh looking for a round, chewy, delicious invention of the gods known here on Earth as a bagel, look no further. Just hop in a tuk-tuk and head on down to Vego Salad Bar. You won’t be disappointed.
Author’s Favorite Travel Gear
Flents Quiet Time – I am a terribly light sleeper and always seem to find myself in some crappy hostel with people partying all night next door….yeah, I guess I’m old too. These do as good a job as any ear plugs I have found. Just as importantly, the soft foam makes them really comfortable.
Ultrafino Packable Panama – I am a hat aficionado and generally take one kind or another with me on most of my trips. This is one of my favorites because it can be crushed, folded, and generally smashed into my backpack any way I like, yet somehow magically manages to look like new every time I pull it out.
Sungwoo Foldable Keyboard – I work a lot when traveling and this helps me get my job done comfortably and efficiently, without having to lug around a full-sized laptop. It can be folded, rolled, and stuffed into nearly any sized pack, plus it’s waterproof, which helps when I spill my Jack and Coke all over it. Yeah…this happens more often than I’d like to admit.