Food in Cambodia
Khmer food is delicious and inexpensive, despite not being the strongest link in Southeast Asia’s chain of delectable cuisines. Rice and, on occasion, noodles are the mainstays. Unlike in Thailand or Laos, spicy hot cuisine is not a staple; black pepper is favored over chilli peppers, but chillis are often offered on the side. Thai and Vietnamese influences may be seen in Khmer cuisine, although Cambodians like strong sour flavors in their meals. Prahok, a native fish paste, is popular in Khmer cuisine but may not appeal to Western palates. In Phnom Penh and the surrounding areas, there is a strong presence of Indian and Chinese eateries. Western cuisine may be available at most restaurants in any of Cambodia’s tourist regions, and Cambodia has some of the finest affordable western meals in Southeast Asia. While still cheap, a western dinner will often cost twice as much as a Khmer meal.
Traditional Khmer cuisine include:
- Amok – Possibly the most famous Cambodian cuisine. A coconut milk curried meal that is less hot than Thai curries. Amok is often prepared with chicken, fish, or shrimp as well as veggies. It’s occasionally served in the shell of a coconut, with rice on the side. It’s very tasty.
- K’tieu (Kuytheav) – A noodle soup that is often offered at breakfast. It’s possible to make it using pork, beef, or shellfish. Flavorings such as lime juice, chili powder, sugar, and fish sauce are added to the consumers’ taste.
- Somlah Machou Khmae – A pineapple, tomato, and fish sweet and sour soup.
- Bai Sarch Ch’rouk – Another morning favorite. Rice (bai) with grilled pig meat (sarch chrouk). Delicious and served with pickled veggies.
- Saik Ch’rouk Cha Kn’yei – Fried pork with ginger. Ginger is a vegetable that is widely utilized. This delectable meal is widely accessible.
- Lok lak – Beef cooked fast when it was chopped up. It’s most likely a relic from the days of French colonialism. Served with a simple dipping sauce of lime juice and black pepper, lettuce, onion, and chips.
- Mi/Bai Chaa – Rice or fried noodles Never especially inspirational, but a reliable travel companion.
- Trey Ch’ien Chou ‘Ayme – Trey (fish) cooked with veggies and a sweet chili sauce. Delicious. The phrase “sweet and sour” is chou ‘ayme.
- K’dam – The crab in Kampot, in the south, is renowned for being fried with locally obtained black pepper. A delicious dinner.
Don’t forget about the Khmer desserts – Pong Aime (sweets). These may be delicious and are accessible from vendors in most Khmer towns. Select from a selection of sweetmeats to be served with ice, condensed milk, and sugar water. The Tuk-a-loc, a blended drink of fruits, raw egg, sweetened condensed milk, and ice, is a must-try.
Fresh fruit is also available in marketplaces in a broad variety. Prices vary depending on the season, but mangoes (around Khmer New Year, with up to 9 kinds on sale) and mangosteen (May/June) are also excellent.
Pregnant eggs (duck eggs with the embryo still inside) and virtually any kind of creepy or crawly critter (spiders, crickets, water beetles), as well as grilled rats, frogs, snakes, bats, and tiny birds, are some typical Khmer delicacies that may be less appealing to outsiders.
Drinks in Cambodia
The tap water supply in Phnom Penh has undergone significant modifications thanks to the government’s “water revolutionary,” Ek Sonn Chan. So, in Phnom Penh, you may drink the tap water without issue, but it is heavily chlorinated and may not taste well. There is also some worry about the bottle water sellers. According to the US Embassy’s website “Cambodia’s Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Energy stated in 2008 that more than 100 bottled water businesses in Cambodia were under consideration for closure due to failure to satisfy basic manufacturing quality requirements. Only 24 of the 130 bottled water businesses are in compliance with the Ministry of Industrial Standards’ Department of Industrial Standards.” Take that website with a grain of salt since it seems to be down on bottled water in general.
Outside of Phnom Penh (and perhaps Siem Reap), believe that tap water is not safe to drink. The price of Khmer brand water in blue plastic bottles is 1,000 riel or less (although prices are often marked up for tourists, to 50 cents or a US dollar).
In Cambodia, iced coffee is widespread. It’s prepared Vietnamese-style, with freshly brewed coffee and sweetened condensed milk. If you go by a local restaurant at any time of day, you will almost certainly notice at least one table of locals sipping them. One glass costs between 1,500 and 2,000 riel. Iced tea with lemon and sugar is very popular and pleasant.
Fresh coconut may be obtained almost everywhere, and it is both nutritious and hygienic if consumed directly from the fruit.
In general, Khmers are not what you would call casual drinkers: their primary goal is to become drunk as soon as possible. If you are asked to participate, know your limitations!
Anchor — pronounced “an-CHOR” with a ch sound! — and Angkor are the two most popular native Cambodian beers, both of which can be purchased in bottles, cans, and on draft for less than US$1 apiece. New beers include the low-cost Klang and Cambodia, while Beerlao and Tiger are popular with tourists. Aside from the usual Heineken and Carlsberg, additional beers include ABC Stout, which is dark and not so terrible. Crown and Leo are low-cost beers, while Kingdom Beer targets the premium market with a pilsener and a black lager.
Palm wine and rice wine are accessible in villages and may be reasonably priced (500-1,000 riel for a 1 L bottle). However, certain sanitary issues have been highlighted, thus the local wines may be best avoided.
Find a bottle of Golden Muscle Wine for a genuine Khmer experience. This pitch-black brew prepared from deer antlers and other herbs packs a 35% punch and tastes horrible when drank straight, but may be made fairly acceptable, though not precisely delicious, by adding tonic water or cola. It’s the cheapest legal tipple available, at $2 for a 350 ml flask of the original and $3 for the “X.O.” variant.