Discover The Flavours Of Cambodian Cuisine At Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor’s 1932

Eris Choo

It’s hard not to be awed when you first lay eyes on the “Grand Dame of Angkor”, the fond moniker given to the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor. Tucked in the heart of Siem Reap — just minutes away from Angkor Wat — the historic hotel’s opulent French colonial style harkens back to the great European resort hotels of the 1920s and 1930s, with a magnificent facade fronting 15 acres of manicured lawns, lush orchards, and verdant gardens.

Its interiors are equally charming, combining Khmer art and furnishings with art deco influences, including black and white marble floors and a timber cage elevator in the lobby. Stepping into the hotel feels like catching a glimpse of another time — when its hallways, rooms, and spaces hosted archaeologists and explorers, as well as celebrities such as Charlie  Chaplin, and dignitaries like former French President Charles de Gaulle and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

Nostalgic dining

It is this rich and storied heritage that the hotel’s fine dining establishment, 1932, aims to showcase through its multi-course Khmer tasting menus. Served in an elegant, timeless setting complete with chandelier-style lighting, the tasting menus are the first of their kind and are divided into decades, spanning the 1930s (The Reign of King Sisowath Norodom), the 1950s (The Grand Renaissance), the 1960s (The Golden Age), and the 1990s (The Raffles Grand Legacy).

Executive sous chef Dorn Doeurt, affectionately known as Chef DD, puts his deep expertise in both traditional and modern Khmer gastronomy to good use, creating a one-of-a-kind experience that perfectly captures the intricacies of Cambodian cuisine.

“I’ve designed these menus as the perfect introduction to Khmer cuisine, spotlighting premium fresh local produce. We source local meat and fish, spices, chocolate, and other ingredients to create distinctive dishes that even the most discerning foodies will agree make them a new ‘must experience’ on the culinary map of Southeast Asia,” says Chef DD.

Extensive thought and research have gone into accurately showcasing the unique flavours and characteristics of each era. The 1930s menu, for example, pays homage to King Sisowath Monivong’s reign, and features authentic Royal Khmer dishes. 1932 is one of only two restaurants in Cambodia with royal Khmer recipes decreed from the Royal Palace of Cambodia, the other being the brand’s sister hotel, Raffles Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh.

Highlights from the 1930s menu include plump seared scallops atop a refreshing lotus salad; and a main course of grilled lamb chop with crudités, prahok sauce, and garlic fried rice.

Entering the 1950s, the Grand Renaissance menu is a celebration of the country’s independence under young King Norodom Sihanouk, with dishes that highlight fresh, local produce and the Khmer people’s modest lifestyle. An amuse bouche of Cambodian sticky rice cake and eggplant, is followed by traditional Cambodian noodles with local flowers and a vegan-friendly sam lor prahir, or tropical vegetable soup of pumpkin, taro, and herbs. Rice, a staple of the Cambodian diet, takes centre stage in the main course of amok banle, made from steamed vegetables, kroeung amok paste, coconut milk, noni leaves, and organic brown rice; while nom plai ai concludes the meal with a dessert of sticky rice, palm sugar, grated coconut, and taro sorbet.

The 1960s, aptly called The Golden Age, was a time of immense growth and development within Cambodia, with the country moving towards modernisation as it strove for international recognition. As such, the menu of this period features more protein-heavy fare and includes dishes such as mek bampong ambil meric (fried baby squid, lime and pepper), gngoa jruok sach ko (veal soup), and a meat main course of khnop tear (duck breast, lemongrass, ginger, Khmer spices, crab fried rice). Particularly noteworthy is the pan-seared seabass, its subtle, natural flavours highlighted by soya pickle and ginger sauce.

New era

The 1990s menu, A Raffles Grand Legacy, commemorates a pivotal time when the hotel was reopened as Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor after extensive renovations. Expect extravagant dishes that marry premium ingredients with local produce, the likes of foie gras terrine and brioche served with Cambodian mango salad; salmon with lemongrass, local herbs and spicy lime sorbet; duck consommé, straw mushrooms, eggplant, with morning glory and chilli; snow fish, kroeung amok paste, coconut milk, and organic rice; and a meat main course of “Char Kdao” Angus tenderloin with hot basil, green beans and sweet potato. There is also a Kampot cheese selection of Tomme of Bokor, Brie, and Saint Marcellin.

The course finishes with a palate cleanser of leang mort (Elephant Bar gin, kaffir lime sorbet) and a luscious dessert featuring artisanal chocolate truffles made from Mondulkiri cacao beans, served with passion fruit, palm sugar caramel, coconut, and a chek ktih (bananas in milk) sorbet.

All tasting menus are offered with an optional wine pairing and dishes can also be ordered individually. For those who prefer a la carte, the selection does not disappoint with dishes such as Cambodian spring rolls; Sihanoukville soft shell crab with green mango salad, roasted peanuts, lok lak powder and aioli; salmon, curry arancini with tomato and pineapple ragout; and braised wagyu beef with quail eggs, green tomato puree and baby carrots.

Dessert offers two options, the Chocolate and Pepper, an exquisite creation of dark Belgian chocolate lava with Kampot pepper, served  with strawberries, passionfruit, honeycomb, and yoghurt ice cream; and the mango sticky rice two ways, made with local mango, sticky rice infused with butterfly pea flower, coconut ice cream, and roasted peanuts.

With such a rich culinary tapestry, Cambodian cuisine deserves a spot on the world stage— and 1932 is poised to deliver an exceptional showcase of its unique flavours and cooking techniques, making any stay at Siem Reap an unforgettable one.