Cambodia Food and Drink
Cambodian food draws on the same rich culinary traditions as neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam, with a noticeable leaning towards fish – as you might expect from a nation at the delta of the mighty Mekong River.
Cambodian pepper and cardamoms join more familiar Southeast Asian ingredients such as curry pastes (kroeung in Khmer), lemongrass, chilli, kaffir lime leaves, Asian basil and galangal as flavourings for stir fries, stews and soups. Prahok – a pungent seasoning made from fermented fish – is another much-loved seasoning.
The foundation of any Khmer meal is rice, either sticky rice, or the fragrant jasmine rice grown in paddy fields across the nation. Vietnamese influence manifests itself in the form of noodle soups such as kuy teav, while the French legacy is obvious from the popularity of coffee and the nom pang (baguette sandwiches with pork) served as snacks across the country.
Balut: Fertilised duck eggs, served as a snack; you’ll see them sold all over the country, but with a whole chick inside. It’s an acquired taste.
Prahok: Fermented fish paste, used as a seasoning for stir fries, but never for soups.
Fried tarantula: A speciality of Skuon in North Cambodia, and a popular dining dare for travellers.
Amok trey: Fish in a thick coconut curry sauce, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.
Babor: Rice porridge with chicken broth often served with an omelette or dried small fry.
Kuy teav: Rice noodle soup with pork stock, thought to originate from China. It comes topped with all sorts of vegetables, garnishes and meat cuts and is a popular breakfast.
Bai chha: Khmer fried rice with sausage, pork, garlic and herbs.
Kralan: Sticky rice flavoured with sugar, beans and grated coconut, steamed inside a bamboo pole.
Lok Lak: Stir-fried beef in a lime, salt and pepper sauce, often served with fried potatoes and an egg.
Mee katang: Cantonese-style wide rice noodles cooked with meat and vegetables in oyster sauce.
Nom banh chok: Curry-style noodles often served with shredded fish, turmeric root, lemongrass, citrus, mint, and chilli.
Pleah sach ko: Beef ceviche with peanuts and garlic, in a lime and palm sugar dressing.
Fresh coconut juice: A refreshing and popular beverage.
Green tea: China’s influence again.
Rice wine: Often served infused with spices as sombai.
Beer: Angkor and Anchor are the lagers to look out for.
Golden muscle wine: Made from herbs and deer antlers (yes, really).
Things to know
Hygiene is something travellers should be aware of when travelling to Cambodia. Roadside street food stalls and restaurants are fun to try but may not have the strictest cleanliness habits. Stick to busy stalls and restaurants serving piping hot foods.
Locals rarely tip but travellers often like to and around 10% is appropriate, particularly in hotels and restaurants where no service charge has been added.
There are no age restrictions on drinking in Cambodia, but a new minimum age of 21 is being debated.