Khmer cuisine is the name for the food generally consumed in Cambodia. The food of Cambodia consists of tropical fruits, rice, noodles, drinks, dessert and various soups.
The staple food for Cambodians is rice. Almost every meal consists of a bowlof rice, although noodles are also popular. A variety of curries, soups and stir fries are served with rice. Many rice varieties are available in Cambodia, including aromatic rice and glutinous or sticky rice. The latter is more commonly found in desserts with fruits like durian.
Khmer Cuisine shares much in common with the food of neighbouring Thailand, although it is generally not as spicy; and Vietnam, with whom it shares many common dishes along with a colonial history, both being a part of the French colonial empire in Southeast Asia. It's also drawn upon influences from the cuisines of China and France, both of whom are powerful participants in Cambodian history. Curry dishes, known as kari (in Khmer) show a trace of cultural influence from India. The countless variations of rice noodles show the influences from Chinese cookery. Rice noodle soup, known simply as Kuyteav, is a popular dish brought to Cambodia by Chinese settlers from generations past. Also, Banh Chiao is the Khmer version from the Vietnamese Bánh xèo. A legacy from the French is the baguette, which the Cambodians often eat with pâté, tinned sardines or eggs. One of these with a cup of strong coffee, sweetened with condensed milk, can be an example of a typical Cambodian breakfast.
Typically, Cambodians eat their meals with at least three or four separate dishes. A meal will usually include a soup or samlor, served alongside the main courses. Each individual dish will probably be either sweet, sour, salty or bitter. Chilli is generally left up to individuals to add themselves. In this way Cambodians ensure that they get a bit of each flavour to satisfy their palates.
Several cooking courses are now run in popular tourist areas, giving visitors the chance to share the culinary secret from the Khmers.
Bai sach chrouk: Pork and rice - Served early mornings on street corners all over Cambodia, bai sach chrouk or pork and rice, is one of the simplest and most delicious dishes the country has to offer. Thinly sliced pork is slow grilled over warm coals to bring out its natural sweetness. Sometimes the pork will be marinated in coconut milk or garlic, no two bai sach chrouks are ever exactly the same. The grilled pork is served over a hearty portion of broken rice, with a helping of freshly pickled cucumbers and daikon radish with plenty of ginger. On the side, you'll often be given a bowl of chicken broth topped with scallions and fried onions.
Fish amok - Fish whipped into a mousse. Tastes far better than it sounds. Fish amok is one of the most well-known Cambodian dishes, but you'll find similar meals in neighbouring countries. The addition of slok ngor, a local herb that imparts a subtly bitter flavour, separates the Cambodian version from the pack. Fish amok is a fish mousse with fresh coconut milk and kroeung, a type of Khmer curry paste made from lemongrass, turmeric root, garlic, shallots, galangal and finger root or Chinese ginger. At upscale restaurants fish amok is steamed in a banana leaf, while more local places serve a boiled version that is more like a soupy fish curry than a mousse.
Khmer Red Curry - A red curry that doesn't end in flames bursting from your mouth. Less spicy than the curries of neighbouring Thailand, Khmer red curry is similarly coconut milk-based but without the overpowering chilli. The dishfeatures beef, chicken or fish, eggplant, green beans, potatoes, fresh coconut milk, lemongrass and kroeung. This delicious dish is usually served at special occasions in Cambodia such as weddings, family gatherings and religious holidays like Pchum Ben or Ancestor's Day, where Cambodians make thedish to share with monks in honour of the departed. Khmer red curry is usually served with bread, a remnant of the French influence on Cambodia.
Lap Khmer, a ceviche style beef salad. Khmer beef salad features thinly sliced beef that is either quickly seared or "cooked" ceviche style by marinating with green lemon juice. Dressed with lemongrass, shallots, garlic, fish sauce, Asian basil, mint, green beans and green pepper, the sweet and salty dishalso packs a punch in the heul (spicy) department with copious amounts of fresh red chili’s. A refreshing dish that is more beef than salad, lap Khmer is popular with Cambodian men, who prefer the beef to be nearly raw -- but at restaurants it's generally served grilled.
Nom banh chok 'Khmer Noodles' Nom banh chok is a beloved Cambodiandish, so much so that in English it's called simply "Khmer noodles." Nom banh chok is a typical breakfast food, and you'll find it sold in the mornings by women carrying it on baskets hanging from a pole balanced on their shoulders. The dish consists of noodles laboriously pounded out of rice, topped with a fish-based green curry gravy made from lemongrass, turmeric root and kaffir lime. Fresh mint leaves, bean sprouts, green beans, banana flower, cucumbers and other greens are heaped on top. There is also a redcurry version that's usually reserved for ceremonial occasions and wedding festivities.
Kdam chaa, Fried crab. Fried crab is a specialty of the Cambodian seaside town of Kep. Its lively crab market is known for fried crab prepared with green, locally grown Kampot pepper. Aromatic Kampot pepper is famous among gourmands worldwide, and although it is available in its dried form internationally, you'll only be able to sample the distinctively flavoured immature green peppercorns in Cambodia. It's worth a visit to Kep and Kampot for that alone, but Phnom Penh restaurants bring live crabs in from the coast to make their own version of this delicious dish, which includes both Kampot pepper and flavourful garlic chives.
Red tree ants with beef and holy basil. A recommended starter before you move on to the skewered bugs. You'll find all sorts of insects on the menu in Cambodia. Tarantulas included. But the dish most appealing to foreign palates is stir-fried red tree ants with beef and holy basil. Ants of various sizes, somebarely visible and others almost an inch long are stir-fried with ginger, lemongrass, garlic, shallots and thinly sliced beef. Lots of chillies complete thearomatic dish, without overpowering the delicate sour flavour that the ants impart to the beef. This meal is served with rice, and if you're lucky you'll also get a portion of ant larvae in your bowl.
Ang dtray-meuk, grilled squid. You can't go wrong with anything served on a stick with dip. In Cambodian seaside towns like Sihanoukville and Kep, you'll find seafood sellers carrying small charcoal-burning ovens on their shoulders, cooking the squid as they walk along the shore. The squid are brushed with either green lemon juice or fish sauce and then barbecued on wooden skewers and served with a popular Cambodian sauce, originally from Kampot, made from garlic, fresh chillies, fish sauce, green lemon juice and sugar. The summer flavour of the shore can be had even in Phnom Penh, where many restaurants bring seafood from the coast to make similar versions of this dish.
Cha houy teuk, jelly dessert. Hot sticky summers call for sweet sticky snacks. After school in Phnom Penh, young people crowd around street stands serving Khmer desserts for 1,000 riel, about US$0.25. Some have sticky rice or sago drenched in coconut milk and topped with taro, red beans, pumpkin and jackfruit. One of the most refreshing is cha houy teuk, a sweet jelly dessert made with agar agar, a gelatine that is derived from seaweed. The jelly can be brightly collared in pinks and greens, making it especially popular with children. Combined with sago, bleached mung beans and coconut cream, cha houy teuk is usually served in a bowl with a scoop of shaved ice.
Fried fish on the fire lake. Sounds like an interpretive dance performance. Tastes delicious. Fresh coconut milk isn't used in every day Khmer cooking. Instead it's saved for dishes served at special occasions. Fried Fish on the Fire Lake is one such dish - it's traditionally made for parties or eaten at restaurants in a special, fish shaped dish. A whole fish is deep-fried and then finished on a hotplate at the table in a coconut curry made from yellow kroeung and chilies. Vegetables such as cauliflower and cabbage are cooked in the curry, and served with rice or rice noodles. The literal translation of thisdish is trei bung kanh chhet, fish from the lake of kanh chhet, a green Cambodian water vegetable served with this dish.