While Cambodian food is not as well known as its South East Asian counterparts like Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, it is incredibly delicious. Let’s take a culinary journey and discover some of the best dishes that you need to try out on your next trip to Cambodia.
1. Num Banhchok
Photo Credit: crazy_asian_ferments
Num banhchok, a fresh rice noodle, has been made by hand in Cambodia for centuries. They are typically served in a fragrant fish or chicken soup enriched with coconut milk and seasoned with prahok, kroueng (Khmer curry paste), and palm sugar.
Often garnished using foraged herbs, this quintessentially Cambodian dish is most commonly eaten at breakfast, but can be found at lunch and dinner if you know where to go.
2. Bai Sach Chrouk (Pork and Rice)
Photo Credit: eatsiemreap
Barbecued pork served with rice is a popular breakfast dish and fairly standard in its presentation, but you will find variations in the small details from place to place, for example in the sweetness of the barbecued glaze, the pickles served on the side, or whether it comes with a small bowl of soup or even some egg.
3. Sach Ko Ang (Barbecued Beef Skewers)
Photo Credit: luckyfatima
Sach ko ang, or barbecued beef skewers, are popular as a late afternoon snack to tide you over until dinner. They usually come with a buttered baguette (a remnant of French colonialism) and a sweet, green papaya pickle.
This firm favorite is easy to spot on account of the crowds seated around the barbecue, which itself is so small you may wonder how they feed so many people at once. Turnover is usually fast, so if the seats are full, you won’t have to wait long.
4. Ko Dot (Roasted Beef)
Photo Credit: cambodiafood.insta
You could call ko dot the Cambodian equivalent of roast beef, and a good restaurant will use the meat from young animals and serve it with crunchy, fresh vegetables.
However, the real draw is the dtuk prahok, a sauce made from Cambodia’s famous fermented fish paste and seasoned to your taste with roasted peanuts and lime juice. Generally speaking, it is rare to find foreigners in a ko dot eatery, but don’t let this put you off. It’s popular with locals for a reason!
5. Bobor (Rice Porridge)
Photo Credit: yocla14
Rice porridge for breakfast is not exclusive to Cambodia as it can be found all around Asia. It has always been a convenient way of using up last night’s leftover rice.
The two most common types of bobor in Cambodia are bobor saw, a no-frills, plain white rice soup often served with a salted duck egg, and bobor kroueng, a more expensive version made using meat or fish stock. Remember to use the available condiments to season it to your liking.
6. Kuy Teow (Rice Noodle Soup)
Kuy teow, a steaming bowl of noodle soup, is one of Cambodia’s most popular breakfasts. The thin vermicelli noodles are served in a meaty broth with some green veg and bean sprouts and you season it with condiments.
There are many generic kuy teows made with chicken powder, but the best ones are made using the bones, giving the soup a meaty depth. A good rule of thumb is if you see a place crammed with locals eating a brothy noodle soup, there’s a good chance it’s kuy teow and that it’s worth a try.
7. Nhoam Svay (Mango Salad)
Nhoam means salad in Khmer and the mango version features heavily on hotel menus and in other tourist venues, but don’t let that put you off! It’s also a staple in many local restaurants and is a delicious way to introduce some freshness to a meal.
Khmer salads use an abundance of fresh herbs, typically, Khmer basil, sawtooth coriander, mint, and “fish herb”, a heart-shaped herb that many think tastes like fish. This salad is often garnished with pieces of dried smoked fish that rehydrate nicely in the salad’s fish sauce and lime juice dressing.
8. Ang Khmer (Khmer Barbecue)
Photo Credit: biwayofkorea
No trip to Cambodia would be complete without some barbecue and you will see it everywhere in the evening. Fortunately, barbecuing is so ingrained in the food culture that, generally speaking, Cambodians are pretty good at it.
You will find ribs, stuffed frogs, fish, and local chicken (moan Khmer); although it is very lean, its free-range, organic upbringing means it also tastes fantastic, especially dipped in a simple condiment made of salt, pepper, and lime juice.
9. Samlor Kokor
Photo Credit: seeasiadifferently
This is sometimes referred to as the “King’s soup” because of an old tale involving the king arriving at a village. The villagers were in such a panic about what to cook him that they threw a bit of everything into the pot.
Although a dish you can find in some restaurants, it is more commonly made at home, often from small amounts of veg that are not quite big enough to turn into an entire meal. Meat and fish are optional but it is common for people to add both, creating a dish that generally pleases everyone.
10. Sngao Chruak (Sour Soup)
Photo Credit: thaylotus
Sngao is one of two styles of soup that are common in Cambodia. It is a simple, lightly fragranced broth made from meat or fish and garnished with herbs and often mushrooms.
Traditionally it was a simple countryside dish prepared by men to showcase what they had caught on their hunt. You will still find people making sngao out of anything from chickens to snakes. Lime and fish sauce are added at the table as condiments to finish this no-nonsense comfort food.
Photo Credit: crazy_asian_ferments
By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter
You can support my work directly on Patreon or Paypal
Contact by mail: email@example.com
Contact by mail: firstname.lastname@example.org