5 Must-Have Delicacies in Cambodia
5 Must-Have Delicacies in Cambodia
Food is not only a way to a man’s heart; it’s also a great way to taste and experience a new culture. Having been in India all her life, where cuisines differ every 250 kilometres, Priyanka Naik is always up to tickle her taste buds.
When Priyanka visited Cambodia, she realised it is so much like India in terms of being a haven for every food lover, as long as one is open to try out new things. Cambodia is popular for its biggest religious attraction – the iconic temple of Angkor Wat. This is a delightful and tranquil experience for those who are seeking a bit of quiet after the thrilling nightlife of its better known neighbor, Thailand. However Cambodia’s one- third familiarity lies in the fact that it shares its roots with India’s history.
Below, she has listed the 5 must-have lip-smacking Cambodian dishes which are not to be missed when you visit this beautiful, authentic country.
1. Fish Amok
A trip to Cambodia isn’t complete unless one tries the Fish Amok. This yellow, mildly sweet curry dish is a major national culinary tradition in Cambodia and for good reason. With a coconut based sauce and tones of turmeric, ginger and garlic, it lends a rich and creamy taste. While lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal and shallots provide the touch of being a truly Asian dish. The texture of the dish is truly unique and appealing. The thinly cut slices of fresh fish are steamed alongside other ingredients until the mixture has solidified into something like a soufflé. This is served in banana leaf baskets and the results are fantabulous. Fish Amok is served across Cambodian restaurants, both on the street as well as upscale venues. The variety found in the preparation of this dish shows how close it is to the hearts of the locals. It is a dish not to be missed.
2. Khmer Red Curry
It is a known fact that the concept of curry first originated in India. But then we see these mouth-watering variations of the spectacular base across the Asian culture, including Thailand and Malaysia. Now, one can count Cambodia in that list, for they have this very special Khmer Red Curry, which to Cambodia is what Butter Chicken is to Punjab. For Cambodians, curry plays a vital role as a part of their culture as it is cooked for special events like Khmer New Year, Pchum Ben or special celebratory days. If it’s cooked in the traditional way, the Khmer Red Curry preparation takes a while as locals prefer to make their own special paste called, KreoungKraham (red curry paste) that has lemongrass, turmeric, kaffir, lime leaf, garlic, and shallots among other ingredients before actually getting down to cooking the dish. The time and effort of preparing this dish is worth it. While not completely unique (the flavor is quite close to the traditional Thai curry), the dish is still is quite fresh and light in taste as compared to Thai curries, and is truly delicious!
3. Nom Banh Chok (Khmer Noodles)
The dish is a typical breakfast food and even works as a quick evening bite. Being super popular as a part of Cambodian cuisine, you are bound to find it on every street corner and restaurants all over Phnom Penh. Nom Banh Chok, the name given to noodles that are made of fermented rice, and generously finished with a healthy serving of a refreshing fish gravy, as well as crispy vegetables. You will also find water lily stems, banana blossom, cucumber and basil and mint in this dish. But then, like most other dishes, there are various regional varieties.
There’s a Kampot-style variety of the dish, which has a base of coconut cream, locally-produced sweet dried shrimp, peanuts and fish sauce. In Siem Reap, another version can be found, which is slightly heavier on the coconut milk and garlic. Here, the dish is served with tikphaem, a sweet sauce. At times, this popular noodle dish is also served with a chicken curry sauce that is made of shrimp past and yams. While it may not be possible to try all these variations in one visit, trying at least one is a must.
4. Lok Lak
A popular beef stir fry dish, Lok Lak is inspired by the Vietnamese dish, Boluc Lac (literally, “shaking beef”). Many believe that the French colonisers brought the dish to Cambodia. However, over the last 5 decades, this dish has become a Cambodian one, and is a part of the Khmer cuisine. One particularly enterprising Cambodian, decided to add French fried, or dumlonbarangchien as a side dish to Lok Lak. Today, it’s served with French fries, a fried egg and rice in Cambodia. While it is common to use beef as the meat in this dish, it can sometimes be replaced by chicken or pork, and at time, even venison. Frequently, the meat isn’t marinated at all, and is instead stir fried with oil and garlic. Or, you will find those who often cook the sauce or oil along with the meat. While the ingredients used in the sauce may changed based on availability, it is generally agreed upon that the sauce is brown.
5. Bai Sach Chrouk (Grilled Pork and Broken Rice)
This is another popular breakfast dish on the streets of Cambodia’s capital. The Bai Sach Chrouk is generally rested in a marinade of garlic and coconut milk, before being grilled over burning charcoal on a traditional wire rack. The dish is usually accompanied with rice, daikon, slightly pickled sweet cucumber, ginger, carrots, and a clear chicken broth that has been flavoured with scallions, or at times, friend onions. Do relish this dish, dip a bite of rice along with the pork in the broth, and then clean the palate with pickles. Bai Sach Chrouk is usually served with broken rice, and is sometimes called Bai Moan Sach Chrouk, or chicken rice with pork. There are some places that will sell fried eggs that can be added alongside. You can find this much-loved breakfast meal, early in the morning, at most roadside vendors.
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About The Author
Priyanka believes life is an endless collection of new experiences, with a story born every moment. Every time one sets eyes on something new or reviews something with a fresh view, the narrative changes. A marketing & PR professional, she strives to live and share her experiences with food, travel and dance, by penning down her stories, and relive those priceless moments.