Farmers Market: Cambo Style

I want to stay true to one of the reasons I moved abroad: to experience life like a local, not finding the Western way of doing things.

Enter our next adventure: buying groceries.

The supermarkets in Phnom Penh are much smaller than those in the US. There are more products available that I anticipated, but most condiments and dairy are imported (from the US!) and are way more expensive than in the US. Some produce and dry goods are imported too, and are sometimes in the same boat. Some essentials we need (i.e. olive oil, simple spices), but I’m challenging myself ย to change what and how I eat to complement what’s grown in Cambodia to fully experience living here. And save costs. $13 strawberries? I’ll pass.

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Today we headed to Russian Market, a smorgasbord of produce, meats, fresh fish, pickled veggies, clothes, home goods and everything else. Felt like a mini Orussey Market, but much easier to navigate and closer to home. It’s like the Brentwood Farmers’ Market every day and night here. Although Russian Market, and other smaller markets around town, are not called “farmers’ markets,” just “markets,” and they’re cheaper and little more smelly ๐Ÿ˜‰

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We’ve learned that a lot of restaurants buy food each morning from these markets and sometimes even drive over and purchase ingredients after an order has been placed, so it’s super fresh, and they don’t have waste.

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We’ve also learned that supermarkets buy produce here and mark it up to sell in their stores. Since learning this, we no longer buy produce at the supermarket.

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It’s a mixture of sights, sounds and smells walking through the wet aisles. So many new types of lettuce, herbs and vegetables that I’d never seen. Promised myself I would purchase something I didn’t recognize each time and experiment.

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I definitely need to learn to eye my cuts of chicken, pork, beef, etc. since nothing is labeled like the markets I’m used to. Some cuts are recognizable, but some are not.

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Today’s haul:

  • 1 dozen eggs ($1.37)
  • 3 roma tomatoes, 3 large carrots, 2 garlic, 4 shallot, 10 baby cucumbers ($2.25)
  • 1 large leek, baby chives, 1 large mushroom, bundle of enoki mushrooms ($1.75)
  • 1 bunch bananas (14), 1 dragonfruit, 4 rambutan ($2.38)

I’d like to find stands that sells a lot of what I buy, and always buy there so they get to know me and give me deals. Also, I’m keeping track of prices so I can tell if next time I’m getting a better/worse deal and go/don’t go back to that stand. Generally people seem honest. They weigh everything. Produce tastes delicious and fresh. Everything has tasted delicious so far!

ET Phone Home

One thing I do not miss about the US is the exorbitant cell phone plan prices! Or at least mine was.

Enter cell phone usage in Cambodia. With an unlocked US phone, I purchased a Cambodian SIM card ($2). From there, I added a monthly data plan. 2GB, which is all I need (there is Wi-Fi everywhere!), is $3/month. Yes, you read that correctly. $3 PER MONTH!!

CambodiaCellPhoneMinuteScratchersMinutes/text are handled differently. You put money on your phone and when it runs out, it runs out, even if it’s after month’s end. And when you need to refill it, you pick up a scratcher (like a lotto ticket) at a multitude of stores and from your phone dial *197*scratchernumber# and dial, and it automatically adds that moneyย on your phone!

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The one thing different here is that it costs more to call people on other networks vs. on your own. Some Cambodians have multiple phones for the different carriers as it’s more cost effective (and a sign of status). I don’t plan to talk on the phone much, but want minutes/texts for quick local calls and emergencies. Will be using Wi-Fi/data for all my communications to the US;)

Within Network:ย $0.05/min,ย $0.07/min 6:00 – 11:59 p.m., $0.025/SMS

Out of Network:ย $0.08/min 12:01 – 11:59 a.m., $0.09/min 12:00 – 11:59 p.m., $0.04/SMS

There are promotions, so I need to figure out what they are and how to take advantage. Just saw one that advertised $1 = $30 on something. Show me the minutes!

Oh Wow Orussey

When you move into a new townhouse, you quickly need the essentials. If I moved into a new place in LA, I would just bring everything from my last place in a moving truck. With limited space (and weight!) in the two suitcases and one carryon I brought on this adventure, I put all my house essentials in storage before I left LA, so we’re starting from scratch. In California, no brainer – I’d head to Target, BB+B or a department store. In Cambodia? Ummmm… where do I go?! They do have a department store, but we didn’t want to invest a ton for household itemsย at the moment, and I moved abroad to experience a new culture, so I didn’t want to default to the more Western option (at first).

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Enter: Orussey Market. We were introduced to this by another expat who we met on an expat Facebook group (another post on that soon!). This is the biggest (indoor) market and commercial center for Cambodians in Phnom Penh. You can find any and everything here. What an experience! Narrow aisles are packed to the brim with little shops over flowing with pots and pans, plates, dried fish, sausages, house essentials, clothes, trinkets and everything one could ever need. And today we only covered one of three floors!

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We learnedย it’s all about haggling here. Stay calm; don’t be in a rush; pick multiple things from the same shopย and ask for the price on all of them instead of individual items; and if you don’t get the price you want, move on as there is someone else around the corner selling the same things for less. Some shop keepers see a white face and instantly mark things up, so foreign buyers beware. It’s all part of the game. This was very foreign to me (no pun intended) for household basics, so Andreas took the lead (he was a pro!) and I took notes. It was fun to watch and I’m excited to go alone next time and try it myself.

I’m working on learning some basics in Khmer (Cambodia’s language), which will hopefully help me get better prices/haggle. Think I’ll get farther asking, “How much?” in Khmer vs. English.

Would I go here every week? Probably not. It was overwhelming and you have to be in the mood for this type of environment. But for essentials when living abroad, when I’m not going to bring any of these things back to the US, this place will do. We scored some nice, reasonably priced things that get the job done. And look nice!

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We have motorbikes here (weeee!!!!), not cars. So how do we schlep all this home?! No trunk to throw it all in. Yet another adventure! Hung a few bags on a hook right where my feet go, hopped on, slid my feet under the bags and away we went. This was a tiny load compared to what I’ve seen some Cambodians carry on their bikes. Baby steps ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Onto the next adventure!