The beauty of Cambodia goes far beyond the famous Angkor Wat ruins or the charm of the Khmer people’s simple lifestyle. The country’s food culture is also not to be missed. From the excellent ‘street food’ offerings to the wonderful selection of restaurants that are generally reasonably priced, the opportunities for trying authentic food are endless.
In the Cambodian (or Khmer) diet, rice and freshwater fish play big roles. Rice is eaten throughout the day such as deep-fried rice for breakfast, as in Cambodia's famous rice noodle soup kuy teav or rice porridge, and in many desserts. Two main sources of natural freshwater, the Mekong River and the Tonle Sap Lake make fish the most important protein in Khmer food. Amok is the national dish, made from fish, coconut milk, and curry paste.
Cambodian culinary secrets are rarely written down, the recipes were instead handed down from mother to daughter. From an ancient origin has come a traditional cuisine of unsuspected treasures: a unique blend of flavors and colors that enhance the natural ingredients used.
Khmer food takes influences from a variety of countries. Cambodia was a French colony for many years and also has many Chinese immigrants, so both French and Chinese foods are widely found. In the west of the country, the cuisine is influenced by the neighbor - Thailand, while in the east the flavors of southern Vietnamese cuisine are more evident. Coastal towns such as Sihanoukville are famous for their seafood, cooked in many styles, including Japanese and European. Common ingredients in Khmer cuisine are similar to those found in other Southeast Asian culinary traditions. However, resourceful people have found their own ways to add a tasty, unique twist to otherwise familiar dishes.
Cambodians perfected the art of blending spice paste using many ingredients. Kroeung, a distinctive spice paste made with a base of lemongrass and galangal, is the foundation of many Cambodian dishes. Adventurous eaters know that traditional Khmer food shares a common, unfamiliar flavor across many dishes. The secret is two other unique ingredients that give Cambodian cuisines their fabulous typical flavor. One is a pungent fermented fish paste known as pra-hok and the other, the kapi, a fermented prawn paste.
Must-try food in Cambodia includes Amok, Lo Lak, Mee M’Poang, Lort Cha, Samlor Machu Trey, Ka tieu, Babar, Kampot pepper crab, etc.
Kampot pepper crab
Snacking is a popular Cambodian pastime, particularly snacking on street food. You will find different snacks available on Cambodia’s streets at different times of the day.
In summary, Cambodian cuisine uses little fat and lots of fresh vegetables, fruits and seafood. This makes it one of the world's healthiest, most balanced, and interesting cuisines. When traveling to Cambodia, be sure to try delicious Khmer dishes.
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