Upon traveling to Southeast Asia, you should know that food is the first thing you shouldn’t forget. And that includes trying the best local food in Cambodia.
Located in the Indochina peninsula, Cambodia is a country popular with its historical site called Angkor Wat. This site was even added on the Cambodian flag and made it the one and only historical site that was used in a flag. That is how proud Cambodians are with their historical site.
Besides its famous site, Cambodia also has various authentic dishes that are not less famous compared to its neighboring countries in Southeast Asia. With the location factor and relic of French colonialism hundreds of years ago, Cambodian dishes became richer in taste. Here we have a list consists of 10 best local food in Cambodia that you have to try when you’re staying in this beautiful country.
1. Khmer Red Curry
Curry has so many types and each country has its own curry signature. In Cambodia, you can find Khmer red curry that is less spicy than its appearance. Khmer red curry is a thick red soup made from coconut milk and the red color didn’t come from the chilies but from a paste made from turmeric, galangal, and lemongrass. It is then cooked along with meat such as beef, chicken, or fish, and vegetables like eggplant, beans, and potatoes.
If regular curry is eaten with rice, Cambodian curry is enjoyed along with bread. This habit is a relic from French colonialism in Cambodia years ago. One of the best places that served Khmer Red Curry is Khmer Kitchen Restaurant or Malis Cambodian Restaurants.
2. Ang Dtray Meuk
For you who are seafood lovers, you can satisfy your taste buds in Cambodia with its seafood. One of the most popular seafood dishes is Ang Dtray Meuk. It’s a whole squid that is soaked in lime extract or fish sauce and is grilled in charcoal. To enjoy this dish, you can use Cambodian special sauce that’s not too spicy.
Coastal cities such as Sihanoukville is the best place to serve this dish. This is a popular street food that you shouldn’t miss while you’re in Cambodia.
3. Bok L’hong
Thailand has Som Tam, Laos has Tam Mak Hoon, and Cambodia has Bok L’hong (read Bok Lahong). These three dishes are basically similar since it’s a salad made from raw papaya. But the spices to season the dish is what makes it different.
Cambodian Bok Lahong uses basil, peas, peanuts, tomatoes, tiny crab, salted fish, and chilies as a mixture on the shredded papaya. These ingredients are seasoned with lime extract, fish sauce, and prahok.
4. Bai Sach Chrouk
Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day. Bai Sach Chrouk is a Cambodian favorite breakfast menu and you can also try this tradition. You can get this dish easily since street stall vendors to high-end restaurants have Bai Sach Chrouk on their menu pan. Street stall in Siem Reap downtown has a cheap price of less than 1 USD.
This dish is usually made from sliced pork smeared in the soy sauce. The meat then seasoned with minced garlic and grilled on the charcoal. This process produces a sweet taste. Cambodians usually serve it along with rice and cucumber. Sometimes it also served with chicken stock and sprinkled fried shallots.
5. Fish Amok
Fish Amok is another Cambodian most popular dish and has an appearance that looks like a pudding with a savory taste. Sometimes you can taste a bitter taste since it contains slok gor, Cambodian authentic spice. This dish is consists of curry with rich and creamy textures and seasoned with ginger, lemongrass, turmeric, and coconut milk. This mixture then wrapped in banana leaves before steaming until it has a savory aroma.
6. Nom Banh Chok
Nom Banh Chok is Cambodia’s most popular noodle dish. locals usually enjoy it as breakfast and you can find the seller early in the morning around the streets.
This dish is a thin rice noodle, served with green fish sauce, and topped with fresh bean sprout, banana flower, cucumber, and various vegetables. If you ever knew or even tasted Pho from Vietnam, Nom Banh Chok has a similar appearance with it. On a special occasion such as marital and festival, the green fish sauce is replaced with red curry sauce.
7. Lok Lak
One of the best local food in Cambodia is the Lok Lak. It is a stir-fried beef that has a lot of variations, depending on the chef and is served along with fresh vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, shallots, and sliced cucumber. The meat is soaked overnight in mixed fish sauce, soy sauce, lemon, extract, pepper, and oyster sauce. This combination produces a special taste.
The beef can be replaced with pork, chicken, or even tofu. Lok Lak is usually served along with rice, fried eggs, sauce, and fresh lettuce.
8. Pepper Crab
If you go to a coastal area, you can find the delicious pepper crab freshly caught from the ocean and is cooked in the street stall kitchen. There is “the crab market” in Kep town that is consists of 10 or more restaurants selling this menu with fresh ingredients. But if you have no plans to go to the coastal area, you can still find this dish in big cities such as Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
This dish has a spicy, sweet, sour, savory, and delicious taste. The crab is seasoned with oyster and soy sauce, and a small amount of sugar. This marinated crab then stir-fried along with green peppercorns.
9. Nom Plae Ai
Nom Plae Ai is a dessert or snack made from rice flour filled with brown sugar and formed in a small ball-shaped. This Cambodian favorite dessert has a white color and is served along with shredded coconut. Nom Plae Ai has a sweet and savory taste and aroma that came from coconut.
The traditional market is the best place to find this dessert. Many street stalls sell this dish at a low price.
10. Fruit Shake
Fruit shake looks like smoothies but is not really smoothies. This drink is made from fresh fruits blended with ice and condensed milk. This combination produces fresh and sweet taste. The fruits that are being used to be the main ingredient can vary from mango, apple, pineapple, coconut, and many others. But Mango is the most popular one.
This drink has a white color no matter what kind of fruit is being used, except mango which still has a yellow color. You can find this drink in a pub or bar in a big city.
That’s all of our list that might satisfy your taste buds. There are still so many more local food in Cambodia that are not on the list and you can try to find them by yourself. But make sure to have a taste of these dishes when you’re staying in Cambodia.
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