All over Cambodia, especially in the more touristy areas, you’ll find hospitality schools: hotels, guest houses and restaurants that have students in training, giving young people a chance to find work in Cambodia’s growing tourism sector.
Some of these are run by non profit organizations, others are private initiatives just trying to give something back to their local community. We ate at a few of these during our time in Cambodia, and while they were all good, “Friends” in Phnomh Penh really stood out and deserves a special mention here.
This restaurant is run by an organization called the Tree Alliance. They have a number of partner restaurants, all training young people for kitchen and service jobs. Most of their students are former street kids. Both the kitchen and the service team had students and trainers (more experienced ex-students), with the newer kids learning on the job from their experienced peers.
We went to Friends not just because we liked the cause behind it, but also because we had heard great things about their food. We were not disappointed! I’m still dreaming of their Burmese chicken curry with crispy noodles. It was one of the best dishes I had in our month in Cambodia. A perfect mix of savory, spicy, sour and sweet.
They also made the best pasta I’ve had in Asia so far. Penne with home made creamy, spicy chili basil pesto and lots of fresh parmesan.
If you’re ever in Phnom Penh, give these guys a try! Make sure you reserve a table, they’re often packed and we saw lots of people being turned away because there were no tables. And bring a few friends to share dishes with so you can try as many things as possible!