The cuisine of Cambodia is heavily influenced by neighboring countries, namely Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Therefore, those who have already been to these other Southeast Asian countries will likely be broadly familiar with the typical flavors and South East Asian styles of cooking.
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Most Popular Cambodian Dishes
Cambodian dishes tend to be easy to prepare, often utilising many Indian spices. Turmeric is common, as are ginger and galangal. Cardamom and cinnamon also play an important role in Cambodian dishes.
From curries to meat dishes to grilled meats, there is a wide range of choices when it comes to dining in Cambodia. Here are some of the post popular, traditional Cambodian foods to try.
Khmer Red Curry
The Khmer curry is less spicy than the curry from neighboring Thailand and is made from coconut milk, but without chili. It includes beef, chicken or fish, eggplant, green beans, potatoes, fresh coconut milk, lemongrass and kroeung.
This delicious dish is often served in Cambodia on special occasions such as weddings, family reunions and religious holidays such as Pchum Ben or Ancestral Day when Cambodians prepare the dish to share with the monks. Khmer curry is often served with bread, a remnant of French culinary influence in Cambodia.
Cha Houy Teuk
After school in Phnom Penh, young people often go to local street stalls that serve a Khmer dessert called Cha Houy Teuk, which costs just 1,000 riels (about $0.25). Some types of Cha Houy Teuk have rice in coconut milk and garnished with taro, red beans, pumpkin, and jackfruit.
The best-known type of Cha Houy Teuk is made from agar, a type of gelatine made from seaweed. Cha Houy Teuk is served in combination with sorghum, beans, coconut cream, often in an ice cream bowl.
Amok is a dish full of typical Cambodian flavors. It is usually made from snakehead fish or catfish. Prahok (a fish sauce made from freshwater fish), sugar and eggs are whipped into a mixture, boiled for glue and the whole fish fillet is then wrapped in the mixture.
Following that, some Slok Ngor leaves (a local herb) are added, and then all of them are wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.
The sauce consists of coconut milk and kroeung, a Khmer curry powder made from lemongrass, saffron, garlic, onions and ginger. The strong taste and characteristic bitterness of Slok Ngor leaves will make it hard to forget about this Cambodian specialty.
Nom Banh Chok: Khmer Noodles
In English, Nom Banh Chok is simply referred to as “Noodle Khmer”. The dish is not to be confused with “Pho” Nom Banh Chok, which is a typical Cambodian breakfast dish. You can easily find this dish in the morning on the street or in local markets in Cambodia.
Nom Banh Chok consists of vermicelli, green curry sauce made from fish and lemongrass, turmeric and lemon. Fresh mint leaves, bean sprouts, green beans, banana flowers, cucumber and other vegetables are placed on top.
There is also another version of Nom Banh Chok with red curry that is usually reserved for ceremonies such as weddings.
Trei Bung Kanh Chhet: Fried Fish
Trei Bung Kanh Chhet is a fish found in the Chhet Kanh Lake. This fried sea fish is a popular dish in the festivities and is also available in restaurants on special occasions. To make it special, it is often served in a fish-shaped bowl.
The preparation involves a whole fish fried and then placed in a coconut curry with lemongrass and chili on a plate on the table. Fresh coconut milk is not used in all daily Khmer dishes, but only on special occasions. Vegetables like cauliflower and cabbage, served with rice or pasta, are a side dish.
Ang Dtray-Meuk: Grilled Squid
In Cambodia’s beach towns like Sihanoukville and Kep, you can find fish vendors carrying small charcoal stoves and frying squid as you walk down the street. The squid is coated with lemon juice or fish sauce and then grilled on a grill or a wooden skewer.
Ang Dtray-Meuk is served with a popular Kampot Cambodian sauce made from garlic, fresh chili, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar. You can also enjoy the summer flavors of the sea in Phnom Penh, where many restaurants specialize in original Ang Dtray Meuk seafood.
Bai Sach Chrouk: Pork Rice
Bai Sach Chrouk, meaning rice with pork and it is a popular dish served early in the morning on streets across Cambodia. It is also one of the easiest and most delicious dishes in the Khmer Kingdom.
The pork is thinly sliced and slowly grilled over hot coals to retain its natural sweetness. Sometimes the pork is marinated with coconut milk or garlic.
Grilled pork is served on a serving of rice with fresh cucumbers, pickles, radishes and ginger. It is also served with a bowl of chicken broth with garlic chives and fried onions.
Cha Kdam: Fried Crabs
Fried crabs are the specialty of the Cambodian coastal town of Kep. The local market in Kep is famous for its green pepper crab dish. Kampot, a locally grown pepper, is the main ingredient in many local dishes, including Cha Kdam.
Aromatic Kampot pepper is well known among foodies around the world and is widely used in its dry variant. Kep is worth visiting for a delicious fried crab dish or for a typical dinner in Phnom Penh, where you can enjoy fresh beach crabs cooked with Kampot pepper and salty chives.
Khmer Beef Salad: Lap Khmer
Lap Khmer is sometimes referred to as Khmer beef salad. The main ingredient of this dish is sliced beef. Depending on the location, the beef is lightly steamed or grilled over fire. However, the beef is generally in lesser quantity than the mixed salad.
The salad has great taste as it is made with fish sauce, lemongrass, lemon juice, coriander, mint and chili. In addition, some other vegetables such as green beans, dried onions and tomatoes are used in its preparation.