What to eat in Cambodia?

"A typical Cambodian meal would normally consist of a soup, a salad, a main fish dish, vegetables and rice. A Cambodian dessert, normally based on fresh fruits and sticky rice, complement the meal."
His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk

The beauty of Cambodia goes far beyond the famous Angkor Wat ruins or the charm of the Khmer people's simple life style. The country's food culture is also not to be missed. In the Khmer diet, rice and freshwater fish play big roles because of the abundance of both. Cambodia has two main sources of natural fresh water, the Mekong river and the Tonle Sap, a huge lake connected to the Mekong. In the monsoon season, The Tonle Sap floods some 16,000 square kilometres of the country, irrigating rice fields and providing breeding grounds for fish.

What is Khmer Food?

Khmer food takes influences from a variety of countries. Cambodia was a French colony for many years and also has many Chinese immigrants, so both French and Chinese foods are widely found. In the west of the country, the cuisine is, naturally, influenced by the food of neighbouring Thailand while in the east the flavors of Vietnamese cuisine are more evident.

Coastal towns such as Sihanoukville in the southwest are famous for their seafood, cooked in many styles, including Japanese and European. Common ingredients in Khmer cuisine are similar to those found in other Southeast Asian culinary traditions – rice and sticky rice, fish sauce, palm sugar, lime, garlic, chilies, coconut milk, lemon grass, galangal, kaffir lime and shallots.

Typical Khmer Dishes
 
Fish Amok (steamed coconut fish in banana leaves)
In the Khmer diet, rice and freshwater fish play big roles because of the abundance of both. Amok is national dish, made from fish, coconut milk and curry paste.

All the ingredients are mixed together and put in banana leaf cups with coconut cream on top, then steamed. Another common form is amok chouk – snails with curry steamed in their shells. Best served with a plate of hot rice.

 
Samlor Machu Trey (sweet and sour soup with fish)
In the Khmer diet, rice and freshwater fish play big roles because of the abundance of both. Amok is national dish, made from fish, coconut milk and curry paste.

All the ingredients are mixed together and put in banana leaf cups with coconut cream on top, then steamed. Another common form is amok chouk – snails with curry steamed in their shells. Best served with a plate of hot rice.

 
Lok lak (Stir-fried beef in brown sauce)
Lok Lak is a traditional Khmer dish, which is basically stir-fried beef slices (or pork) in a light brown sauce, served with rice and/or green salad and pepper sauce. Most restaurants across the county offer this dish but tastes are varied depending on the chefs and regions.

The beef or pork slices must first be marinated before cooking so that they are tastier and juicier.

 
Nom banh chok (Khmer noodles)
Many locals start their day with nom banh chok, a popular dish known as Khmer noodles in English.

It consists of rice noodles topped with green fish gravy and lots of fresh vegetables including cucumbers, green beans, mint leaves, banana blossom and bean sprouts. It's very similar to the Thai dish 'kanom jeen'.

 
Drinks
In the major cities, it is easy to get a hold of foreign beers such as Carlsberg, Heineken, Tiger, Guinness and Singha. Local brands such as Angkor, Angkor Stout and Bayon are also available everywhere.

Coffee and tea are usually available anywhere in the country. Imported wine is found only in the main tourist areas.