Cambodian cuisine is usually overshadowed by Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, two major culinary heavy-weights on either side of it. However, when you are travelling in Cambodia you absolutely must sample the local food.
Cambodian cuisine isn’t known for its spiciness, but more for its delicate complexity of flavours. You will find that herbs such as coriander and lemongrass are often used and in many dishes you can taste the characteristic smoky flavour from being cooked over a single wok on a charcoal stove. Most dishes are made with fresh produce from the market, purchased when needed as many Cambodians don’t own refrigerators.
A staple ingredient for most Cambodian meals is white rice, which is complemented with vegetables, fish and meat – usually served in communal dishes that are shared as a group.
What to Eat in Cambodia
So are you wondering what to eat in Cambodia? Here are some of the mouth-watering Cambodian dishes that you should try during your visit:
Bai Sach Chrouk (Pork and Rice)
This simple dish is often eaten as a breakfast food and it contains thinly sliced slow-grilled pork with an addictive savoury sweetness. The meat is sometimes marinated in garlic or coconut milk, depending on the chef. It is then served over rice with plenty of pickled cucumbers, ginger and daikon radish.
Fish Amok is one of the famous dishes associated with Cambodia and it will probably be unlike anything you have ever tasted before. Imagine fish, cooked and combined with creamy coconut milk so that it becomes the texture of mousse. It is flavoured with Khmer curry paste, consisting of turmeric, lemongrass, shallots, garlic, Chinese ginger and galangal. The dish is often served in a banana leaf and it has a wonderfully complex, fragrant and satisfying taste.
Ang Dtray-Meuk (Grilled Squid)
If you have the pleasure of visiting one of the laid back seaside towns in Cambodia such as Kep and Sianhoukville, you will find seafood venders who are selling fresh grilled squid. The soft and chewy squid are seasoned with fish sauce or lime juice and then barbequed on their own wooden skewers. The dish is often served with a dipping sauce made from sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, garlic and chili.
Etiquette Tips for Eating in Cambodia
Now that you have an idea on what to eat in Cambodia, take a look at these important etiquette tips to keep in mind when you are dining in Cambodia, whether at the home of a local or at a restaurant:
- When sitting at a table with multiple people, the oldest person is seated first and will begin eating before the others. Don’t start to eat before the oldest person begins.
- It is socially inappropriate to discuss business while eating, so stick to light-hearted topics.
- The spoon is the primary utensil for eating, not the fork. It is impolite to put the fork in your mouth, so use it to push food onto your spoon.
- If a spoon has been in your mouth, it shouldn’t go back in the communal dish.
Have you ever dined in Cambodia? What is your favourite local dish? Let me know in the comments below.