Traditional Khmer Food In Cambodia

Angkor Wat Cambodia

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Khmer cuisine is not very popular in the Western world, even though it was the main influence of the more popular Vietnamese and Thai recipes, but it’s time the world learned more about it.

What is Khmer food?

It includes all the traditional recipes of the Khmer ethnic group in Cambodia. One of the main ingredients that distinguish this overlooked side of the world’s cuisine is prahok, a fermented paste made of salted fish. Let’s look at some of the best traditional Khmer recipes in Cambodia.

An abundance of flavors

Vegetabke and Shrimp Dish Cambodia

The reason why Khmer food is so rich is the extensive use of dozens of spices and sauces, especially fermented sauces. Black pepper, Kampot pepper, wild cardamom, turmeric, ginger, basil, lemongrass, and various types of roots are all used to enhance the senses while eating. Besides prahok, Khmer cuisine uses other fermented sauces, such as kapi (made from fermented shrimp), teuk krom (oyster sauce), and mam trey tok (fermented snakehead fish). Rice is commonly served every day on the side.

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Unique soups

Even though dishes in Cambodia were influenced at some point by Chinese cuisine, Khmer people adopted the recipes but gave them a twist by using their own ingredients to enhance them. Noodles or rice are commonly used in soups.

Kuy teav is probably the most served soup in Cambodia. This traditional Khmer recipe is normally served for breakfast, but it can also be found as street food. The main ingredients are rice noodles and pork, spiced with garlic, oyster sauce, and mild herbs that are not intended to make it overpowering.

Traditional soup in Cambodia

Num banh chok is a similar soup but more pungent since fermented fish gravy is used to give it flavor. Most recipes use mint and lemongrass to give it a tangy taste and this one is widely used during traditional Cambodian celebrations. The Khmer noodles used for this soup are also cooked in other forms, with toppings, seasonings, and meat.

Incorporating fresh fruits into meals

Many Khmer recipes are unique through their ingenious blends of fruits. For example, Aluek trei ngeat is salty fish dried in the sun, sometimes grilled over coals, that is served with fresh watermelon. Maam chao is a dish with raw fish that has been fermented for approximately a month, served with pineapple, vegetables, and various sides.

Dried Fish Cambodia Market

Kha trei svay kchai is one of the most interesting recipes that incorporate fruits. Cooked fish is boiled in a sauce made with caramelized sugar, tomatoes, garlic, and black pepper. In the end, it’s topped with pieces of fresh mango for an unbelievable mix of sweet and tangy taste.

Salads are sometimes not very filling, but Nhoam krauch thlong is a unique and satisfying salad with pomelo as the main ingredient. The fresh sour pomelo is chopped and mixed with meat, usually pork, coconut, shrimp, mint, and onion.

The daily dose of rice and noodles

In this part of the world rice or noodles are served every day, either as a side or incorporated in a dish. Amok is very popular with tourists who try Khmer food for the first time. Rice is topped with a curry made with fish, snails, chicken, or pork. What’s unique about this curry is that it’s made with fresh coconut milk.

Fish Amok Traditional Dish Cambodia

Another curry unique to Cambodia is Kari sach moan, a red curry made with chicken, potatoes, chilies, coconut milk, and kroeung, a traditional Khmer blend of spices. It’s normally served with rice or noodles, and it’s a popular dish for special occasions, such as holidays or weddings.

One of the most loved Cambodian foods is sticky rice cakes. They can be served as a snack, filled with meat or vegetables, or as a dessert, filled with various fruits. The rice is filled, rolled, and wrapped in a banana leaf. It’s pretty much Cambodian sushi.

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Unique Khmer dishes

Rice is the main side for probably one of the weirdest recipes for Westerners. Kangkep baob are frogs stuffed with meat, vegetables, and traditional spices, grilled on coals and served with rice as the main course, or as street food.

Another recipe that might sound odd, but ends up being very appreciated by foreigners is Chaa angrong sach ko, a dish with red tree ants as the main ingredient. These are fried with beef and basil, ginger, garlic, and served with rice. Sometimes the rent ant larvae are served with it as a side snack.

In Cambodia, locals eat traditional food that includes spiders, insects, snakes, fried scorpions, even boiled half-hatched duck eggs called Balut that is actually quite popular as street food.

Cambodia Fried Crispy Insets With Pandan Leafs

If you plan to travel to Cambodia make sure to try many of the traditional Khmer dishes, and you will see how underrated Cambodian cuisine is. Even if you’re squeamish try and take to get out of your comfort zone and give a try to dishes you never thought you could.