BEST CAMBODIAN FOOD EXPERIENCES YOU CAN HAVE
Enjoying Cambodian food while visiting the Kingdom of Wonder.
Squeezed between culinary superstars Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodian food definitely has to fight hard for culinary recognition. But once you have tasted the Khmer cuisine there is no turning back, its unique blend of flavours and colours stays with you. Cambodian cuisine starts with rice and ends with rice; and then in between you have all the noodles, soups, grilled dishes, stir-fried creations, freshwater fish, salads, loads of vegetables, fruits and desserts. Oh yes, they do prepare desserts made of rice too!
SHALL I PREPARE MYSELF FOR A HOT EXPERIENCE?
Well, in Cambodia there is a whole art behind blending the spices into mouthwatering pastes (kroeung) without actually blowing fire like in the neighbouring country. They use many spices such as cloves, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, turmeric and other locally grown ingredients galangal, cilantro, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass to name a few. Also they use a lot fermented paste-base ingredients, like prahok (fermented fish paste) as dipping sauces or included in many dishes. In addition, their wide variety of pickled vegetables would definitely tickle your taste buds, too. However if you are into more spicy flavours, for sure you can find your expectations among the various curry dishes or even among the street snacks like green mango with chilli.
MUST TRY DISHES
We have selected our top favourite dishes, which are a must-try once in Cambodia, enjoy:
♣ crunchy, healthy Mango salad with a natural zesty flavour
♣ eye-catching Fish Amok
♣ pleasantly spicy Khmer Red Curry (pretty mild comparing it to its Thai neighbour)
♣ Beef Lok Lak with its flavoursome pepper sauce (Kampot pepper rocks)
♣ Stir fried crab with green Kampot peppercorn, an absolute must while in Kep
♣ maybe not fully Cambodian, but all time favourite Mango sticky rice
Mango its is! Mango is definitely the greatest and one of the tastiest fruit asset of Cambodia. In a cooking class they would even show you at least 4 different ways to cut it. Cambodians love the green mango – pretty sour one, with chilli its just another great snack (for them). All the typical tropical fruits are available like passionfruit, dragonfruit, papaya, jackfruit, mangosteen and well the king of the fruits, stinky durian too. And then you have the not that known ones like, milk fruit, sapodilla or vax jambu/Java apple with its sour/sweet -parfume like taste my kids are dying for. Best tip is to ask a local to show you how to eat a relatively unknown fruit, some could give you a pretty pleasant surprise.
LOCAL VEGGIES EXPERIENCE
Khmer cuisine uses a wide range of vegetables also found in the Chinese cuisine, such as bok choy, kai -lan, bamboo shoots baby corn, bitter melon, snow peas, long beans or banana blossoms just to name a few. Stir-fry dishes are abundant of fresh veggies, which are as tasty as appealing to our eyes with its army of colours. Oh yes they use cucumber in the stir-fries, too. Morning glory needs to be highlighted, a pretty exquisite snack once fried.
INTRO TO CAMBODIAN STREET FOOD
Actually for many Cambodian street food is breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is pretty cheap, widely available and offered in huge variety. It ranges from the famous rice noodle soup kuyteav to noodles (fried egg noodles is a must – go for the thick home-made looking types), dry freshwater shells, grilled meat, fish or non identifiable meat balls in rainbow colours, cut fruits, and corn, everywhere. And for the non faint-hearted then you have all the frogs the insects and so on. As of the price, you don’t need to stretch on your budget e.g. a huge portion of fried noodles with an egg costs a dollar and a half, feeds two adults easily, or a whole pinapple meticulously cut into shape is 2000 Riel or half a dollar. You probably wonder of the safety of street food, well try those stalls which are frequented more by the locals, and cooked in front of you, those can’t go wrong. As of drinks, iced coffee with sweeted condensed milk is definitely on the podium together with sugar cane juice (Cambodian- grown palm sugar is one of the best sugar due to its taste and vast amount of nutrients).
HANDS ON EXPERIENCES OR AS THE WORLD KNOWS IT THE „COOKING COURSES”
To further indulge yourself in the myriad of scents and flavours why not try one of the many available cooking courses throughout the Kingdom. It is not just a tasteful experience you bring home but a pretty educative one too, as you will learn a lot about every day Cambodian life, starting off purchasing your ingredients from the market. In Phnom Penh try Frizz Restaurant’s Cooking course, while in Siem Reap we would recommend Beyond Unique Escapes’ cooking courses.
CAMBODIAN FOOD AS PRESENTS AND SOUVENIRS
Food plays a vital role in Cambodian’s life. You will see that food is used as offerings in the pagodas, given out to monks during their morning routine rounds, and even works as presents for Cambodians not just in special occasions, too.
And once leaving Cambodia food works as souvenirs, too. Kampot pepper is definitely a hit, (even they scent handmade soaps with it – another great, not food related souvenir tip) they package it in various pretty boxes and bags, available as mixed peppers too, anyhow its a great souvenir. Dried goodies such as dried mango is pretty tasty too.
For certain allergies it is not recommended to eat Khmer food, as it does contain loads of soy sauce and peanut just to name a few allergic substances. Also, if you have specific allergic conditions be aware and do not generally trust the restaurant when asking them about their food content; as they use lots of pre-made sauces and often are not aware of allergies and the risk some foods can have on you.