If you’re planning a trip to Cambodia, the country’s incredible temples and stunning national landscapes will be top of your bucket list. However, if you’re a foodie like us you’ll be just as excited by the new dishes you’ll get to try.
With a Cambodia eVisa you can experience a whole new culinary world: Cambodian cooking uses ingredients and flavor combinations you may never have across before.
Keep reading to find out the food and drink you mustn’t miss out on when in Cambodia and the most popular Khmer dishes.
How Would You Describe Cambodian Food?
Restaurants serving Thai and Vietnamese food can be found across the Western world, yet Cambodian cookery is not as well-known. For this reason, first-time visitors are often unsure exactly what to expect.
Like other Southeast Asian cuisines, Cambodian dishes are light and aromatic; lime, coriander, and Asian basil feature in many of the most popular recipes. The favored cooking methods are stir-frying, steaming, and boiling.
Commonly used ingredients in Cambodian cooking
- Fermented sauces: fish, oyster, and soy sauce are widely used to flavor dishes
- Spices: black pepper is used to add heat, ginger, cardamom, and lemongrass also feature
- Vegetables: a wide range of vegetables are used especially in soups and stews
- Rice or noodles: these form the key component of many dishes
- Fish and meat: freshwater fish, chicken, and pork are the usual protein sauces
The Most Popular Cambodian Dishes
When traveling around Cambodia, take the opportunity to try all the different foods on offer. As you won’t have time to try everything, we recommend prioritizing the most typical, and delicious, dishes on the menu.
Amok Trey: the national dish of Cambodia
Amok Trey is the national dish of Cambodia and you’ll find it everywhere you go. This tasty meal is made from freshwater fish, rice, coconut milk, and curry paste. These ingredients are steamed in a banana leaf.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Cambodia for the Water and Moon Festival you’ll notice that Amok Trey plays a key role in the celebrations.
Twa Ko: Cambodian Sausage
Meat eaters will enjoy sampling Twa Ko, the Cambodian sausage. Beef or pork is combined with various spices, the sausage is generally barbecued, grilled or fried and can be eaten alone or served with rice and vegetables.
Sausages are sold on skewers by street food vendors and are a popular snack amongst the locals.
Khmer noodles: a typical Cambodian breakfast
Known as Khmer noodles in English, Nom banh chok is often served first thing in the morning and can be quite a culture shock to westerners more accustomed to breakfast cereals or eggs.
This satisfying dish contains rice noodles, fish stock, and plenty of fresh vegetables and will keep you going till lunchtime.
Lok lak: a Cambodian pepper beef stir fry
Lettuce leaves are topped with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and finally stir-fried beef (chicken and shrimp can also be used but are less common). At its best it is served fried with fresh peppercorns rather than just ground pepper.
The lettuce leaves may be pulled around the other ingredients so lok lak can be dipped in sauce and eaten like a wrap.
Vegetarian and Vegan Food in Cambodia
While it’s true that Cambodian’s love their meat and fish dishes, there are also plenty of options for vegetarians. In fact, vegetables are a key component to most Khmer dishes adding color, flavor, and texture to Cambodian cookery.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, look out for:
- Nyorm Kroit Tlong: a refreshing grapefruit salad
- Somlar Kari: green vegetable curry
- Kho Manor Nung To Hu: fried tofu and caramelized pineapple with garlic and soy sauce
- Vegetable Amok: ask for Amok Trey without fish for a veggie version of the national dish
Be aware that fish sauce is used in many recipes, you can just ask for them to leave it out. You may also find it useful to learn how to ask for dishes without meat and explain that you’re a vegetarian or vegan.
Cambodian Desserts and Sweet Treats
Whether you have a sweet tooth or not, it’s definitely worth trying some of Cambodia’s signature desserts. Seasonal fruits are celebrated by turning them into delicious puddings and sugary snacks.
One of the desserts that is impossible to miss in Cambodia is bey dom neib, mango and sticky rice. The sweet rice combines deliciously with mango and coconut milk. The perfect way to end a meal.
Mung bean pudding is another popular Khmer dessert. The pudding is usually sweetened with palm sugar and often served topped with coconut sauce. You’ll find mung bean pudding for sale at stalls in the street.
Rice cakes filled with banana and wrapped in banana leaves are steamed to create another of Cambodia’s favorite sweet treats. These banana cakes, Num ansom chek, are served up as part of the Khmer New Year celebrations.
The Most Popular Drinks in Cambodia
It’s important to stay hydrated during your trip to Cambodia. As well as drinking plenty of water from safe sources, try the iced coffee for a caffeine (and sugar) hit, or fresh coconut juice sipped straight from the shell.
Beer is the alcoholic drink of choice in Cambodia. Different regions of the country brew their own varieties. Throughout the country, you’ll find Angkor Wat, the most popular brew named after the famous temple complex.
As always when traveling overseas, purchase food and drinks from reliable vendors. When it comes to street food in Asia, go for the places with the most local customers, the best indication of quality.