A Guide to Cambodian Food
Feb 23 , 2012
A combination of the freshest ingredients, herbs and spices combine to make a unique culinary tradition in Cambodia. Cambodian food has a varied menu of delicious curries, noodles, fresh seafood as well as some unique menu items to enchant any visitor to this beautiful country.
Cambodia is a country rebuilding itself after a devastating past. Now peaceful and friendly, even quiet compared to its neighbors, it offers an intriguing history, natural beauty, and the magical ruins of Angkor Wat.
Similar to Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, Cambodia also draws great culinary influence from French colonial rule, China, and India.
Though not as spicy as Thai food, Cambodian cuisine is rich in strong, fresh flavors like galangal, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and pepper. Like its neighbors dishes come with multiple condiments for the diner to control how sweet, bitter, spicy or salty their meal is. Rice is a staple, as are noodles and their location on the mighty Mekong and the Tonle Sap Lake mean fish and seafood play a large role in local fare.
One of the flavors setting Cambodian cuisine apart is its use of Prahok, a fermented, salty, and pungent fish paste. It can be eaten on its own but is more commonly used to give dishes a unique, salty kick.
The national dish is generally considered to be amok, a delicious Khmer curry. Amok is a local and a tourist favorite for its bold but delicate flavors without the heat of most curries. Cambodians learned the art of blended spice pastes from the Indians. Different to an Indian curry, Khmer curries are lighter with a coconut base. It is traditionally made with fish but chicken is also popular. The amok paste is made by blending kroeung spices, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, and chilli then covering the meat which is then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.
Babar/ Bo Bar
Particularly popular for breakfast, Bo Bar is a sort of rice porridge served with chicken or pork with bean sprouts and onions added for texture. The rich broth is mixed with great spices including an unusual local favorite, garlic.
Samlor Machu Trey
Competing combinations of flavors is a common addition to Cambodian dishes, and this popular soup is a treat for the palette. Sweet and sour fish soup is made with pineapple for sweetness, sourness is from tamarind and sometimes lime plus chilli, garlic, and lemongrass are added for a spicy kick.
And for something a bit different
Often on the menu in Cambodia is a relic of French times, frogs legs which are usually served stir-fried with lemongrass, ginger, and other aromatics flavors.
Make a stop in the market town of Skuon north of Phnom Penh for their regional delicacy, deep-fried spiders. A species of tarantula, the critters are as big as a human palm, bred locally, and fried for a crunchy, road side snack.
Red Tree Ants with Holy Basil
Continuing with insects why not try ants? The pesky little tree ants are cooked into a tasteful dish of stir-fried garlic, ginger, shallots, lemongrass with holy basil and beef.
Now that you know what to order, enjoy a meal at one of the best restaurants in Siem Reap.