Cambodian Food: Top 5 Dishes Every Foodie Must Try
They say food is the best way to a man’s heart, but for women, enjoying good food while on holiday is often the best form of guilt-free indulgence. An avid traveller and self-acclaimed foodie, Priyanka Naik is always up to treat her taste buds to new flavours. Having lived in India, where cuisines change every 250 kilometres, she was more than happy to sample the most popular food in Cambodia on her all-girls getaway. Here’s her list of Cambodian food you must definitely try as you uncover the history, spirituality and scenic wonders of the exotic country.
When Priyanka visited Cambodia, she realised it is very much like India in terms of being a paradise for every food lover, as long as one is open to trying out new things. Popular for its biggest religious attraction, the iconic temple of Angkor Wat, Cambodia makes for a delightful and tranquil experience for those who seek some quiet after the thrilling nightlife of its better known neighbour, Thailand. However, one-third of Cambodia’s familiarity lies in the fact that it shares its roots with India’s history, making it one of the best places for your first, or latest, all-girls trip. Whether it’s a glam bachelorette, a solo trip, a getaway with friends or just an escape for you and your mom, Vietnam and Cambodia should be on your list.
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5 Authentic Cambodian Foods You Absolutely Shouldn’t Miss!
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 the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal and shallots makes it taste like a truly Asian dish. The texture of the dish is truly unique and appealing. The thin slices of fresh fish are steamed alongside other ingredients until the mixture has solidified into something like a soufflé. This is then served in quaint banana leaf baskets and the outcome is absolutely fabulous. Extremely popular, Fish Amok is enjoyed both as Cambodian street food as well as a traditional dish at upscale venues. The variety found in the preparation of this dish shows how close it is to the hearts of the locals; this is one Cambodian dish you should not miss.
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2. Khmer Red Curry
Khmer red curry is a known fact that the concept of curry first originated in India. However, there are many mouth-watering variations of this spectacular base across Asian countries, including Thailand and Malaysia. Now, one can count Cambodia in that list! For Cambodians, curries play a vital role in their culture as it is cooked for special events like Khmer New Year, Pchum Ben or special celebratory days. In fact, the special Khmer Red Curry is to Cambodia what Butter Chicken is to Punjab. When cooked in the traditional manner, this recipe requires a lot more time as locals prefer to make their own special paste called Kreoung Kraham (red curry paste). The paste is prepared with kaffir, lemongrass, turmeric, lime leaf, garlic, and shallots among other ingredients. The time and effort put into preparing Khmer red curry is totally worth it. While the Thai Khmer red curry is more spicier, the Cambodian Khmer Red Curry is quite fresh and light in taste as compared to other traditional curries, and is truly delicious!
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3. Nom Banh Chok (Khmer Noodles)
Nom Banh Chok is a typical Cambodian breakfast dish that can be found at every nook and street corner, often for less than a dollar in Phnom Penh. However, if you’re craving this popular Cambodian street food as a mid-afternoon snack, you will only find it being sold by women carrying ingredients hanging off a pole across their shoulders.
This Cambodian food comprises rice noodles topped with a green fish gravy and heaps of fresh green beans, bean sprouts, banana flower, cucumbers and other greens. Although Nom Banh Chok is found in various regional varieties, it is only the red version of this dish that is served at ceremonial occasions and wedding festivities. The Kampot-style variety of the dish has a base of coconut cream, locally produced sweet dried shrimp, peanuts and fish sauce. The Siem Reap version is slightly heavier on the coconut milk and garlic, and 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 paste and yams. While it may not be possible to try all the variations of this Cambodian food in one visit, trying at least one is a must.
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4. Lok Lak
A popular beef stir-fry dish, Lok Lak is inspired by the Vietnamese dish, Boluc Lac (which literally means “shaking beef”). Many believe that the French colonisers brought this dish to Cambodia. However, over the last 5 decades, this dish has evolved and become an integral part of Cambodian food; today it falls under the Khmer cuisine. While it is common to use beef as the meat in this dish, it can sometimes be replaced by chicken or pork, and at times, even venison. While the ingredients used in the sauce may change based on availability, it is generally agreed upon that the sauce is brown. Today, Lok Lak is served with a variety of sides like French fries, a fried egg and rice in Cambodia.
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5. Bai Sach Chrouk (Grilled Pork & Broken Rice)
Bai Sach Chrouk is another popular Cambodian breakfast fondly referred to as one of the best street foods of Cambodia. It is generally rested in a marinade of garlic and coconut milk, before being grilled over burning charcoal on a traditional wire rack. This Cambodian food is usually accompanied with rice, daikon, slightly pickled sweet cucumber, ginger, carrots, and a clear chicken broth that is flavoured with scallions, or at times, fried onions. There also are some places that will sell fried eggs that can be added alongside. You can find this much-loved meal being served early in the morning at most roadside vendors.
One of the best ways to explore the region’s best gastronomic offerings is on an all-girls escape. Apart from being a foodie’s paradise, Vietnam and Cambodia also offer the perfect dose of ancient relics, picturesque locations and unforgettable moments. With this in mind, Getaway Goddess has curated an itinerary for women, one that follows the belief that women deserve to be pampered as they uncover one destination at a time.
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These are the top 5 Cambodian foods you should try for an authentic experience of the country’s culinary culture. Do you think this list does justice to the flavours of Cambodia? Think we should add to these suggestions? Drop us a line in the comments below and let us know!
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.