Cambodian cuisine isn’t as popular as that of Thai or Vietnamese. But given the bold and rich flavors of Cambodian food, which are milder than spicy Thai food and more robust than delicate Vietnamese food, Cambodian cuisine can definitely stand on its own. Sample the foods on this list and taste for yourself just how awesome Cambodian food is.
If Cambodia has a national dish, it has to be fish amok. It’s white fish cooked in coconut milk mixed with kroeung, which is a sort of curry mix made with fresh turmeric, galangal, garlic, chili, shallots and lemongrass. The fish is then topped with kaffir leaves and steamed in a cup formed out of banana leaves.
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Green mango salad
Green mango salad is a bit similar to the Thai papaya salad. But aside from the fact that this salad is made with unripe green mangos, it’s less pungent than the papaya salad. It’s also milder, slightly sweeter, and the citrus tones are more pronounced. The salad is made out of shredded green mangos mixed with carrots, tomatoes, green peppers, shallots, holy basil and mint, tossed in a dressing of lime juice, shallots, garlic, palm sugar, fish sauce, and chili.
Seafood is a staple in Cambodia, thanks to the presence of the great Tonle Sap lake in the north, the Gulf of Thailand in the south, and the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers in the middle. So you’re always bound to find food vendors selling grilled seafood in Cambodia. The best grilled seafood, though, is found at the villages around Tonle Sap, in Sihanoukville, in Kampot, and in Kep.
Kampot pepper crab
The province of Kampot is famous for two things. One is its plantations produce the best peppercorns in the world. The other is its proximity to the Gulf of Thailand gives it access to delicious seafood. The people of Kampot combine these two blessings through their signature Kampot pepper crab dish, where fresh crabs are stir-fried with peppercorns still attached to the stem.
Khmer red curry
Khmer red curry is similar to Thai red curry in that it’s made with red curry paste, it’s halal-inspired, it’s stewed with coconut milk, and it contains vegetables like potatoes and eggplant. The one major difference that sets Khmer red curry apart is it doesn’t use red chili. Instead, its spice comes from the combination of lemongrass, turmeric, galangal, and garlic. Khmer red curry is often served at weddings and other religious holidays.
Lap Khmer is beef salad, where slivers of beef are either given a quick sear or marinated in lime juice. The beef is then tossed with shallots, lemongrass, holy basil, mint, garlic, green pepper, green beans, fish sauce, and lots of red chili flakes. In restaurants, the beef in lap Khmer is often grilled. The authentic homemade version, however, features nearly raw beef.
Loc lac is beef slivers stir-fried in oyster sauce, palm sugar and soy sauce. It’s usually served with rice topped with fried egg as well as a side of sliced cucumber and tomatoes. Sometimes it comes with French fries. It’s a popular all-day meal.
If you happen to be up and about late at night and craving for something to eat, you can always rely on finding a food vendor on a tuk-tuk selling lort cha. Lort cha is a dish of fat and spicy rice noodles stir-fried with greens, soy sauce and fish sauce, and then served with a topping of bean sprouts and runny fried egg.
Nom banh chok
A rustic dish that’s beautiful in its simplicity, nom banh chok or Khmer noodles is made up of thin rice noodles mixed with fresh vegetables, often including shredded banana leaves, cucumbers, long beans, and bean sprouts. It’s then topped with holy basil and fresh mint, as well as green fish curry flavored with lemongrass.
Are you hungry for Cambodian food yet? Book your trip to Cambodia now and savor these delightful Khmer eats.