Cambodia's must try dishes
The flavours of Khmer cuisine are bold, rich, and surprisingly different from the well-known dishes of its neighbours. The food is heartier than typically delicate Vietnamese cuisine, and not nearly as sweet and spicy as Thai food, but Chinese and Indian influences are also evident in the curries and stir-fries. Below are eight dishes that you'll likely see if you travel to Cambodia—be sure to try each of them at least once.
This dish is most popular in northwest Cambodia. The mild white fish is cooked in a coconut milk base, flavoured with fresh turmeric paste, lemongrass, and fingerroot, then steamed in a bowl made of banana leaves. On menus in tourist areas, you may find that chicken is used instead of fish, but fish is the most authentic way to go.
Kampot Pepper Crab
The southern province of Kampot, right on the coastline, is well known for two things: fresh seafood and peppercorn farms. These two ingredients unite in this amazing rustic dish of fresh crab stir-fried with plentiful green peppercorns that are uniquely still attached to the stem. The pepper imbues the sweet crab meat with a lingering floral flavour, but be sure to eat a few of the peppercorns whole for a spicy kick.
This stir-fried beef dish is prepared with oyster sauce, soy sauce and is served throughout the country. Traditionally paired with rice to absorb the sweet brown sauce, it’s also becoming common to see loc lac served with french fries or a fried egg on top.
Beef Saraman Curry
Made with spices including coriander and cardamom, this braised beef dish reflects Indian influences and is beloved throughout Cambodia. In fact, it’s typically served at big celebrations, particularly weddings. The key ingredients, besides the meltingly tender beef, are coconut milk and whole peanuts.
The Cambodian staple of prahok, or fish paste, is certainly an acquired taste, yet it gives this complex pork-and-coconut-milk curry a uniquely salty and savoury flavour. Usually served with fresh vegetables (green mango, eggplant, and cucumber) for dipping, the addition of tamarind sauce adds a bit of sweetness and some acid to balance it out.
Khmer Red Curry
Often compared to Thai red curries, this version is slightly different, being enriched with star anise, cardamom, nutmeg, peppercorns, and coriander. These coconut-milk-based curries are typically redder than those found on the western side of the border, and are cooked with chicken or vegetables, such as eggplant, potatoes, and green beans.
This dish is usually served from street carts to a motorbike or tuk-tuk driver craving a late night snack. The spicy stir-fried noodles are cut short in length to match the texture of the bean sprouts and cooked with greens, green onions, and a scrambled or fried egg. Finally, all of the ingredients are tossed with a generous portion of chilli and soy sauce before being plated.