Cambodian food is much like the cuisine found throughout Southeast Asia with some definite, unique differences. Cambodian cuisine doesn’t actually differ too much from Thai food in ingredients used but the spices that make Thai food so aromatic and irresistible aren’t as commonly used in Cambodian, and specifically Khmer foods. That being said, there are many one of a kind, tasty dishes offered, with variations used in different regions, from north to south.
You can count on rice and noodles, and lots of them, as the staple foods in Cambodia. This includes most street food in Cambodia too. Thin and wide rice noodles, and both thick and thin egg noodles are most common. With most rice and noodle meals, diners choose between an assortment of meats including chicken, duck, beef, and pork. Within the wide variety of rice and noodle dishes available, garlic and fish sauce are two of the most prominent ingredients used. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian spring rolls are another staple and a religiously popular street food in Cambodia found on almost every street corner in major cities like Siem Riep and Phnom Penh. Filling and sizes vary as does the pastry base.
Plentiful and varied, fruits include the ubiquitous durian, mango, pineapple, bananas, dragon fruit, lychee, mandarin, and guava. Mangosteen, rambutans, watermelon and star fruit are also readily available. These are eaten fresh or blended into fruit shakes which are very popular and found almost anywhere food and drinks are sold. Vegetables however, are another story; they aren’t nearly as plentiful. Cambodian food is most often prepared with string beans, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, and leafy green vegetables.
Food in Cambodia
Other popular street food in Cambodia includes deep fried spiders, a common sight in food markets and well-populated areas. Locals hawk them from large black trays. They’re marinated and then barbequed and sold in bags. Cambodians munch on these just like westerners would on a bag of potato chips. French baguettes are also a common Cambodia food mainly due to the French influences in the country’s history. Good places to look for street food vendors is along the riverfront and in the colorful Central Market.
The most popular dishes in the country, whether it’s street food in Cambodia, a home cooked meal, or a restaurant experience, include Amok curry, a thick and creamy coconut based red (spicy) curry served with chilies, kaffir lime, and fish or chicken. Ginger fish or chicken is tossed up in large woks with ample amounts of aromatic ginger, onion, and garlic and eaten with warm rice. Cambodia Laksa might be one of the tastiest and most interesting. Based on renowned Malaysian Laksa, the Cambodian version is red curried soup with rice noodles and a variety of options to add in including soy sauce, chilies, mint, bean sprouts, and cucumber. Beef and vegetable salad (tomato, cabbage, red onion, and cooked beef) and lemon fish soup round off the list of most popular dishes in Cambodian food.
Cambodian food comes in such a wide variety and price range, it’s impossible not to find something tasty. The restaurant scene is surprisingly modern, with scores of gastro-pubs and other such contemporary restaurants and eateries established and also still popping up all over the country. Street vendors are found everywhere, from small towns to large ones like Sihanoukville. In between, visitors will find thousands of mom and pop restaurants in popular and also very obscure places. One important thing to note when eating anywhere in Southeast Asia is, if the restaurant or food stall isn’t a busy one, it’s best to carry on to one that is, where the food is more likely to be fresh and worry-free.