From fried creepy-crawlies to hearty soups, experiencing Cambodian cuisine should be at the top of your list with Angkor Wat. Although it is typically overshadowed by Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, Cambodian food is nevertheless fresh, tasty, diverse, and unique. From breakfast to dessert, we’ve got you covered! Here are our highlights of must-try Cambodian dishes:
1. Kuy Teav
Are you obsessed with Vietnamese pho? Then trying kuy teav is essential! This steaming rice noodle soup is a popular breakfast dish among locals, yet it is also served throughout the day. With a fragrant broth (beef or pork) and fresh garnishes that could include spring onions, coriander, lettuce leaves, and beansprouts, the meal is a bright start to any day. Pork or fish balls are occasional toppings, while a squeeze of lime and a side of chili are common accompaniments.
2. Nom Banh Chok
Also known as Khmer noodles, nom banh chok is another classic breakfast dish or afternoon treat. Noodles made from fermented rice form the basis of this revitalising meal. These are topped with a rich fish curry that is ultimately garnished with seasonal vegetables and vibrant herbs such as lemongrass, basil, and mint.
3. Fish Amok
Despite the simplicity of the dish, fish amok reigns as one of Cambodia’s prized national dishes. Using ingredients that are beloved in Cambodia such as galangal, black pepper, kaffir lime, palm sugar, coconut milk, and kroeung (a curry and marinade paste based on lemongrass), a slightly sweet dish is created with hints of heat, citrus, and bitterness. Ultimately, the fish curry is steamed and presented in banana leaf boats.
4. Beef Lok Lak
Kampot peppercorns underscore this emblematic dish. It is diced beef that has been primarily marinaded in paprika, tomato sauce, fish sauce, and corn starch/potato starch. Once ready, it is cooked quickly, similar to Vietnamese ‘shaking beef’. The black pepper beef is typically served with rice, a fried egg, fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and a dipping sauce to compliment the red meat.
5. Edible Insects
Although not a specific dish, it is important to note that fried or grilled insects are a Cambodian delicacy. As an inexpensive source of protein, you’ll find dozens of stalls with impressive heaps of cockroaches, red ants, water bugs, water snakes, you name it! Tropical flavours are ever-present: the infamous deep-fried tarantula is paired with a tamarind dipping sauce, while small, plump maggots are served with pickled limes, chilies and spring onions! Tip: Don’t rule it out! Just have a beer in hand to make a great (or more bearable) combo.
6. Cambodian BBQ
Who doesn’t love a barbecue? Cambodian locals certainly do! For a nourishing street food snack, barbecue stalls and carts are plentiful. For a more satiating meal, restaurants hosting barbecue buffets are your go-to – the choice is all yours! The variety of Cambodian barbecue meat is one of the most diverse in the world. Take your pick between beef, pork, shrimp, duck, fish, frog, kangaroo, ostrich, crocodile and more!
Our first dessert is a Cambodian pumpkin coconut custard that is typically served on special occasions. It is a sweet, delicate dish that involves the steaming or baking of a pumpkin infused with a coconut and egg custard. The outcome is silky smooth and soft – a perfect treat for any sweet tooth!
8. Num Ansom Chek
Like sangkhia, this sweet delicacy is typically reserved for important celebrations, especially the Cambodian New Year and Pchum Ben (Festival of Souls). Sticky rice and grated coconut wrapped and steamed in banana leaves make up this dish, leading to the English translation: rolled banana cake. The banana leaves mean it can be kept for days without being spoiled!
Have we intrigued you? Are you curious to taste Cambodian cuisine for yourself? Eat your way through Cambodia with our fantastic tours! Niang bai! (Bon Appetit!)