While Cambodian food might not be as well known as its neighbour’s of Thailand and Vietnam, it is a unique cuisine full of vibrant flavours and spices.
A good way to learn more about Cambodian food would be to join a food tour or a cooking class:
Here are some of the most popular and must-try dishes of Cambodia.
This is one of the most popular dishes in Cambodia and is often referred to as Cambodia’s signature dish. This creamy curry dish offers a warm and buttery melt-in-your-mouth taste that perfectly balances local herbs like lemongrass and ginger with just the right amount of spice. Traditionally the dish is steamed in a banana leaf shaped into a bowl, which also doubles as the serving bowl.
You will find that most Cambodians will start their day with this popular meal of a noodle soup made from pork or beef bones with rice vermicelli. The broth is topped with fried shallots and garlic, bean sprouts, green onion and some aromatic green herbs. Pork or fish balls are sometimes added and it is usually served with chilli paste, some lime and hoisin sauce on the side.
Beef Loc Lac
Also seen as a signature dish, beef loc lac consists of stir-fried strips of tender beef served atop a bed of lettuce leaves, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and rings of raw onions. Often, a fried egg is placed on top. The best part of this dish is the dipping sauce of lime juice and Kampot pepper which really make the flavours pop.
Bai Sach Chrouk (Pork And Rice)
Cambodia’s national breakfast dish, this is usually only available in the morning. Thinly sliced pork is first marinated in coconut or garlic and then slowly grilled before being served over warm rice with a side of pickled cucumbers and radishes and broth.
Nom Banh Chok (Khmer Noodles)
While you might think of noodle soup as the perfect lunch or dinner meal, in Cambodia it’s noodle soup is most popular for breakfast. You can find this popular breakfast meal from street stalls and vendors when you explore the streets during the early mornings. Rice noodles are combined with a fresh green curry sauce and topped with bean sprouts and other vegetables.
Khmer Red Curry
Khmer red curry is similar to the famed curries of Thailand, but with just milder and with a little less spice. A creamy coconut milk base blends with chunks of beef, pork, or chicken and a blend of local herbs and spices. Khmer curries tend to use more herbs than spices resulting in a milder and sweeter taste. Traditionally, in Cambodia, the curry is most often served with bread as a side and not with rice.
Chicken And Banana Flower Salad
Refreshing and light, this salad makes for a refreshing light lunch. Slices of chicken breast are served with crunchy banana blossom flower, fried shallots, garlic, chillies and lemongrass, with fresh lime squeezed on top.
Crab And Pepper
This dish is a speciality of the coastal town of Kep. Crabs are caught daily and sold at the bustling Crab Market, a range of crab shacks and restaurants. Be sure to try the fried crab and Kampot pepper. Or if you prefer not to have to struggle to get to the tasty crab meat, rather opt for a crab burger - equally delicious! We were really impressed with both our crab dishes from “Chhay Chhay Resto” at the Crab Market, Kep.
This crushed, salted and fermented fish paste is used in abundance as a seasoning to add a strong salty flavour to Cambodian dishes, although it can also be served alone alongside rice and a side salad. Its strong smell has earned it the nickname of Cambodian cheese. Sometimes referred to as the Cambodian Marmite, you may find it an acquired taste.
Green Mango Salad
Cambodian salads are renowned for their refreshing taste while still packing a proper punch. Green mango salad is crunchy and zesty and features fresh chilli, fish sauce, sliced green mango, sliced tomatoes and shallots, pickled cucumber, onion, peppers and fresh basil or mint.
Num Kachay (Chive Cakes)
This is a popular street snack. The small cakes are made with glutinous rice flour and fried in shallow pans by mobile vendors before being served with a sweet, spicy fish sauce.
Similar to Num Kachay, but smaller and with fewer chives! The small cakes are made with glutinous rice flour and fried in ball-shaped pans by mobile vendors.
Sach Ko Chomkak (Beef Or Pork Skewers)
During the early evening, you will find the air filled with the aroma of meat being barbecued from grills that dot the Cambodian streets. Barbecued beef or pork on skewers are often served with pickled papaya salad or inside a crunchy baguette - our favourite way!
Steamed Pork Bun
One of our favourite dish that can easily be picked up off the street is a freshly steamed pork bun. The bun is stuffed with pork and hard-boiled egg and is best eaten piping hot.
Nom Pang (Baguette)
A legacy of French cuisine, the baguette is ubiquitous in all parts of Cambodia today. Cambodians often eat bread with a choice of pâté, tinned sardines or even eggs. A baguette with a cup of strong coffee, sweetened with condensed milk, is an example of a common Cambodian breakfast. Freshly buttered baguettes can be made into sandwiches (which are also called nom pang) and may be stuffed with slices of ham or any number of grilled meats.
Khmer Fried Ginger Chicken
If you’re a fan of ginger or if you have a sore throat, then you’ll just love this dish! Very flavorful and aromatic, the ginger is definitely the star of this dish!
Crispy Fried Kefir Lime Leaves
Kefir Lime leaves are often used in Khmer cooking and they impart a very unique flavour which is not to everyone’s liking. We had a very interesting dish of Crisply Sesame Beef with deep-fried Keffir Lime Leaves and while Andre thoroughly enjoyed it, Lisa found the Keffir Lime Leaves overpowering.
Cambodian Nam Pang
The Cambodian version of Vietnamese Banh Mi, you can find these from many a street vendor, just look out for the pile of fresh baguettes. Sometimes you will be able to choose between grilled meat skewers (Sach Ko Chomkak Kreoung) or else it may just contain some combination of mixed meats. What makes these simple sandwiches so delicious, is the light crispy baguette and the tasty pickled salad. An absolute go-to meal or snack on the run in Cambodia!