It isn’t often that you get to do good and eat well at the same times—especially when you are on the road and exploring a new country or city. In fact, it’s almost unheard of. Thanks to the Green Start restaurant in Siem Reap, Cambodia, that is going to change. Green Star is a not-for-profit restaurant located in downtown Siem Reap and its main purpose is to provide aid for former street kids in Cambodia who have nowhere else to turn for financial and emotional support. The organization the Green Star supports is called Green Gecko, which is an NGO that provides these down-on-their-luck children with housing, food and educational opportunities so they don’t have to beg on the street to survive.
The Green Star is tucked away off busy streets behind Wat Damnak Pagoda, allowing it to keep a low profile while doing good. It is located at the Southern end of Wat Bo Road, and the signage is smaller and faded, so you need to keep your eyes peeled when looking for it. When you visit at night, it isn’t as difficult to ascertain where the restaurant is because there is a helpful neon green star that is lit up outside. The restaurant opens at 6pm for dinner, and the small space fills up quickly once the doors are opened.
Once you are seated at one of the small plastic tables or settled in at the bar, you’ll have your choice of some of the most delicious meals in Cambodia. Not only will you be helping former street kids by dining here, but you’ll be getting an authentic taste of Khmer cuisine. Some of their most popular dishes include spicy duck, lemongrass eel, and succulent frog. These may sound intimidating to try, but even if you just take a bite, you’re sure to understand the appeal and the flavours that are an essential part of Khmer cuisine.
Beyond their staple dishes there is a blackboard menu that is updated daily. Plus, as an added bonus the wait-staff speaks English well, allowing for conversation and additions/substitutions to the dishes if you need them. If the thought of enjoying eel makes your shiver, simply request to replace the protein in the meal with something you are more comfortable with like chicken or pork. They should be happy to make the adjustment for you.
While all of the above are a great part of dining at Green Star in Siem Reap, perhaps the most interesting part of the whole establishment is the customer base. As you enjoy your curried crab or grilled frog, you may notice that the people joining you are speaking English as well. This is because Green Star has established itself as a fantastic expat bar where people come multiple times a week to enjoy an affordable meal ($3-4 AUD per meal) and swap stories. More often than not, if you introduce yourself to one of the cronies, you’ll be inundated with stories, tips and suggestions for where and what to do during your time in Cambodia—and if you’re smart, you’ll listen up!
Meals in Cambodia are a fantastic way to enhance your already superb experience. You’ll eat delicious foods, try new flavours, meet new people and expand your world view. Plus, when you visit Green Star in Siem Reap, you’ll be contributing to a fantastic organization that sends 100% of its profits to the Green Gecko so that kids who would otherwise be begging for food are taken care of. While you tour Cambodia in search of the best meal, stay covered with travel insurance that will protect your health, belonging and travel plans.
Image courtesy of Flickr user ND Strupler.