Sophie's Kitchen (Philadelphia, USA) Review

14,278 kilometers/8,872 miles from Phnom Penh

Sophie's Kitchen - Cambodian food in Philadelphia, U.S.A.

The Liberty Bell, cheesesteaks, birthplace of the U.S. constitution, and home to more than 11,000 Cambodians in the metropolitan area. Where are we?

In October I made my first visit to the States in more than four years. I spent a few days with my little sister and her now husband in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is also home to several Cambodian restaurants. With our limited time we squeezed in a visit to the Southeast Asian market in FDR park and one restaurant. After scouring menus and reviews online we finally landed on Sophie's Kitchen. What won me over? The menu looked the closest to what I enjoy eating in Cambodia and with Cambodian family in Australia.

Sophie's Kitchen morning menu - Cambodian food in Philadelphia
Sophie's Kitchen morning menu - Cambodian food in Philadelphia

Tossing around the word "authentic" is always a risk.

Cambodians include ethnic Khmers, Chinese-Cambodians, Vietnamese-Cambodians, ethnic minorities like the Bunong, and more. I believe that every nation's definition of "authentic" is fluid to some degree. Countries like Ireland are famous for potatoes, but potatoes originally come from South America. The same is true for Cambodia. Food has been influenced by the spice trades generations ago, tides of immigrants, modern movements of people and products, native plants, and necessity. Here I'll use the word "authentic" to mean what Cambodian food commonly reflects today.

Sophie's Kitchen is one of the most authentic Cambodian food experiences I've had outside of Cambodia. The restaurant itself is modern but celebrates Cambodian vibes with southeast Asian art and music. All the assertive, well-balanced flavors are present and won't make any apologies. I could taste the good stuff.

Prahok (fermented fish paste) and kapii (fermented shrimp paste) are in the right dishes at balanced amounts. Even in soup, vegetables like morning glory are fresh and crunchy. Textures are abundant and on point in every dish. Importantly, the lemongrass flavor in the kroeung, Cambodian spice paste, is clear.

My one disappointment was in the stuffed chicken wings. The filling was dry and didn't pack a flavour punch. Every other dish, though, was fantastic. Read on for a full list of what we ordered.

(See our full order with descriptions and photos below. We ordered heaps!)

Despite a busy night of catering and cooking, Sophie herself answered a few questions and told us about her cooking philosophy.

The Cambodians I meet often believe people won't like their food or understand the ingredients. In some restaurants this translates to "watering down" the intensity, or combining more familiar Thai dishes with Cambodian. That's why it was delightful to meet Sophie Neth. Sophie professed her desire to cook Cambodian cuisine made to the correct tastes that she remembers from her childhood, not to suit someone else. That being said, Sophie let us know that if anyone has a problem with strong ingredients like prahok, most dishes can be made without.

When Sophie's family arrived in the U.S. as refugees fleeing the Khmer Rogue, they landed in Little Rock, Arkansas. Little Rock had a tiny Cambodian population but when Sophie's family moved to Philadelphia she reconnected with her culture. Cooking knowledge came from her mother, friends, and the community in her new home.

Today Sophie's Kitchen is a family business, co-owned by Sophie and her husband. Their children are also part of the team.

I admire Sophie's fearless approach to sharing her culture's food and I hope another visit is in my future. I'd love to try more of the menu and hear more from the team at Sophie's Kitchen.

What other Cambodian restaurants are must-tries in Philadelphia? Have you been to Sophie's Kitchen? Let me know in the comments!


Sophie's Kitchen worked some serious magic and brought out the lemongrass flavour in their kroeung, spice paste. That's impressive because lemongrass doesn't grow in Pennsylvania, and it's not easy to draw out its flavor from frozen or imported. The morning glory, the green stems, were crunchy and not soggy.

Cambodian sour & savoury beef soup - samlor majeu kroeung sach koh


A street-food classic, Cambodian grilled beef skewers are often served with green papaya pickles. Sophie's Kitchen served theirs with a pickled mix of cucumber, daikon, and carrot. Cambodian pickles are often quite sweet. These were well-balanced. I don't have any complaints about the beef, but there was a bit of umami missing.

Sach koh ang are grilled beef skewers served with pickles.


I love that Cambodia's version of papaya salad isn't too spicy. Sure, it has a kick, but it's not overwhelming. That allows you to taste all the flavours rather than! Sophie's Kitchen had a tasty bok lahong that was juicy, sour, spicy, salty, sweet; basically, all the things you'd hope for.

Bok lahong is Cambodia's version of papaya salad.


This dish is literally the stuff of legends, specifically one that involves a Khmer revolutionary and scholar showing up the Chinese emperor. It's also beloved as a breakfast. Traditional num banh chok is stuffed with herbs, leaves, and flowers that don't grow in most of the U.S. Sophie's Kitchen improvises well but still keeps the unique num banh chok flavour that comes from combining fingerroot, fish, and kroeung.

Num Banh Chok at Sophie's Kitchen in Philadelphia


This was the one dish I wouldn't order a second time at Sophie's Kitchen. The lemongrass in the filling was nice and fresh, but overall they were dry and the total flavour wasn't rewarding. This dish is labour-intensive and not very common, but it is impressive.

Cambodian stuffed chicken wings at Sophie's Kitchen, Philadelphia.


Morning glory a.k.a. water spinach a.k.a. kang kong a.k.a. ...other names is a crunchy green vegetable with a long hollow stem. Stir-fried morning glory like what we had at Sophie's Kitchen is crunchy in the stem with soft leaves, plenty of garlic and a bit of soy or fish sauce for saltiness.

Stir-fried morning glory at Sophie's Kitchen in Philadelphia.


Sophie's Kitchen's deep-fried frog legs with tuk beul marek, lime and pepper sauce, were delicious! I've eaten and made tuk beul marek countless times but having it with frog legs was new for me. I loved eating the crunch, the mild meat, and the sour-salty sauce together. 100% would eat again.

Cambodian deep-fried frog legs at Sophie's Kitchen, Philadelphia.


This Khmer dessert is coconut milk custard steamed directly inside a sweet orange pumpkin. Sophie's Kitchen staff were kind enough to give us this dessert on the house. The classic Asian sentiment of "sweet but not too sweet" is true here. The creamy custard and the luscious pumpkin were a perfect ending to our delicious meal.

Cambodian pumpkin and custard at Sophie's Kitchen in Philadelphia.

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