Sitting on the Indochinese peninsula of Southeast Asia, Cambodia is one of the best the region offers. It has a rich history with Indian and Chinese influences evident. The country is proud of its heritage, which is especially seen in its iconic Angkor Wat, the national symbol of Cambodia. The famous tuk-tuks are also a prominent symbol that is often seen on Cambodian streets. Apart from the sights and attractions, many tourists flock to Cambodia for the food. While Khmer cuisine shares similar qualities with its Southeast Asian neighbors Vietnam and Thailand—except that Cambodia uses more herbs rather than spices—the street food in the former tends to be more interesting. Here’s a list of some of the exciting top street food you must try in Cambodia.
1. Kuy teav (Cambodian noodle soup)
Also known as kway teow, kuy teav is a traditional Cambodian noodle soup prepared with a simple yet specific method. With its origins hailing from China, this dish is commonly served during breakfast but can also be eaten at lunch or dinner. Using an array of flavors, the noodles, which are made from squash rice, are boiled, strained, and then damped with caramelized garlic oil, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and a hint of sugar. Even the broth is a concoction of flavors. For the toppings, it can range from simple ground pork to a crowd of options like pork loaf, pork belly, duck, or seafood.
2. Kralan (sticky rice in bamboo)
This snack made of sticky rice is not only native to Cambodia but also popular in other Southeast Asian countries like Myanmar and Thailand. Cambodia’s version is similar to the others in form and taste, but it reflects Cambodian culture as well. Many Khmer guards and officials used to eat lots of kralan during their duty, especially at night, because it’s almost like a full meal in itself—since it’s made from rice. Today people can enjoy kralan any time of the day. The traditional snack is usually found inside bamboo shells of different lengths and diameters and is enjoyed by many tourists and foreigners.
3. Khmer fish amok (fish steamed in curry)
Highly regarded as the country’s most popular dish, with some even declaring it as the national dish of Cambodia, Khmer fish amok is one food you shouldn’t miss. Primarily made from fish and curry, the dish is made through a unique process. The fish is lightly fried first, then wrapped in banana leaf only to be soaked in curry and steamed afterward. The curry is made of coconut milk and a bit of fish paste, resulting in a thick curry with an orange hue. This delicacy is best served with rice on banana leaves.
4. Lort cha (Cambodian pan-fried noodles)
Fried noodles are a common dish in many Southeast Asian countries. Cambodia’s version is called lort cha, and it’s made from short rice noodles mixed with a lot of vegetables, usually Chinese broccoli, bean sprouts, green onions, and chives. The cherry on top is usually fried egg, but others prefer a bit more protein—like chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp. Lort cha is also best enjoyed with some soy sauce—or chili sauce if you’d like an extra kick—and it’s a perfect dish for any time of the day.
5. Num chet chien (Cambodian banana nuggets)
#FlavorfulFusion #Cambodia NUM CHET CHIEN Fried Banana Nuggets! #EasyRecipe at http://gormandizewithus.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/num-chet-chien-banana-nuggets.htmlPosted by Big Momma's Li'l Kitchen on Tuesday, 6 January 2015
Bananas are abundant in tropical countries like Cambodia. So it’s no wonder why this dessert is common and very easy to make. Made from bananas wrapped in spring-roll wrappers, num chet chien is best enjoyed with some ice cream and a dash of powdered sugar. This simple and yummy dessert can be found in many places—from fine-dining restaurants to street markets in Cambodia.
6. Pork bun
Nom pao or nom bao is Cambodia’s version of the pork bun, which is a famous Asian snack. It’s believed to have originated from China, with bao meaning “to wrap.” Each Asian country has its own version, but the Cambodian pork bun is made of tasty meat stuffed in a soft kind of dough. It can be seen in many street market food stalls and is sometimes regarded as great comfort food.
7. Bai sach chrouk (Cambodian grilled pork with rice)
One of the simplest Cambodian dishes, bai sach chrouk is translated literally to “pork with rice.” Oftentimes it can be served with some pickled vegetables. This savory dish is best enjoyed by locals during breakfast, but it can also be consumed at any time of the day. The thinly sliced pork is first marinated in coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, and garlic with a hint of sugar, then grilled on charcoal for a full smoky flavor. Just like with many Southeast Asian dishes, the pork is served with rice, and this meal can be easily found in many market stalls and corners around Cambodia.
8. Babar (Cambodian rice soup)
This Cambodian rice soup or porridge, sometimes called babar or babaw, is the perfect companion on a cold day. Though Cambodia is a tropical country, this can still be enjoyed as comfort food to satisfy your hunger. It’s usually mixed with chicken or pork, depending on your preference. The broth of the soup is in itself a combination of flavors with ginger and lemongrass as its main aromas. For a saltier kick, you can also add in some shrimp or anchovies. This dish is already considered a full meal because of its contents and is very easy to whip up.
9. Balut (duck or bird embryo)
Balut is a popular street food in the Philippines, but Cambodia also has its own version—ideal for brave souls seeking exotic food. The name comes from a Malay word whose translation means “to wrap.” It’s also locally called pong tia koun, and the embryo is normally 18 to 20 days old when consumed. It’s best enjoyed warm, garnished with some lime juice, salt, and pepper. You can also pair this with some good beer together with your gutsy friends.
10. Grilled skewers
In Cambodia, grilled skewers are popular as street food, especially when there’s a barbecue festival. There’s even an entire street just lined up with different types of grilled skewers called Khmer Pub Street. Get yourself a bottle of good beer and try the different offerings of grilled skewers. They’re usually made with beef, pork, chicken, or seafood, though the most common is beef. The skewers are marinated with some soy sauce, lemongrass, and a hint of sugar, so you’ll be sure to get all these different flavors partying on your taste buds.
11. Lok lak (Cambodian pepper beef)
Lok lak or loc lac is a popular Cambodian dish not only in-country but even abroad. Westerners especially love it because of the rich flavor the dish brings. Best enjoyed with rice, the beef is first marinated, then sautéed in a traditional wok and often served with a black pepper sauce and some vegetables. Interestingly enough, even though the dish is famous in Cambodia, its origins are actually from its neighboring country, Vietnam—and come from French influences.
12. Coconut ice cream
For those with a sweet tooth, coconut ice cream is one of your best options when looking for dessert in Cambodia. It is especially popular in Phnom Penh, and you can often find this unique dessert at night markets. You can choose your favorite flavor—common ones include chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla. This treat is usually served in a coconut shell, drizzled with coconut juice, and topped with coconut shavings.
13. Cambodian iced coffee
For a tropical country like Cambodia, iced drinks are the perfect refresher from the humid temperatures. The most popular among these is Cambodian iced coffee. It’s normally mixed with condensed milk for a sweeter kick, but black coffee is fine too if you prefer it to be stronger. You can find Cambodian iced coffee anywhere—at the markets, your favorite restaurant, or even hanging from the side of a tuk-tuk. It usually comes in a plastic cup or bag with a holder and a straw.
14. Num pang (Cambodian sandwich)
Similar to Vietnam’s bánh mì, num pang is a popular traditional Cambodian sandwich packed with different flavors. It’s made with a toasted baguette and consists of meat, pickled carrots, cilantro, and a drizzle of chili sauce. These ingredients are usually prepared with intricate detail and much effort compared to the bánh mì. The baguette, for example, is a special kind of bread that’s toasted on the outside but chewy on the inside. The sandwich has become so popular that there’s a restaurant line bearing its name in New York and Boston.
15. Nom ka chai (chive cakes)
Nom ka chai is a simple yet tasty snack usually found on the streets of Phnom Penh. It was originally brought to Cambodia by Chinese settlers when they first arrived in the country. Nom ka chai is made from rice flour mixed with chives and is then lightly fried on a shallow pan. Its crispiness and texture depend on your liking of course, but it’s best to enjoy it with a bit of golden-brown color. This delicacy is usually served with sweet and spicy fish sauce.
One of the more exotic foods you’d want to try in Cambodia are the snails. Roam the streets of this beautiful country, and you won’t miss seeing them. These little guys are first seasoned and marinated, lightly cooked, then dried out in the sun. If you would like to sample one, make sure that it is cooked properly because snails can cause a little problem for those with weak stomachs. However, if you’re game to try one, dip it in some chili sauce or simply add a dash of salt and pepper for the best exotic experience.
17. Deep-fried bread and shrimp cakes
A real treat awaits you in these deep-fried bread and shrimp cakes. Commonly found in the markets of Siem Reap, these delicacies are worth trying because of the yummy taste. With all the flavors, the shrimp are fried to golden perfection on top of French bread, which is also golden fried. This crunchy treat will leave you wanting for more after your first try.
18. Grilled worms and crickets
If the previously mentioned exotic foods aren’t enough for your taste, then this one might be! Grilled worms and crickets are a Cambodian delicacy and are a must-try for the tourists who are daring enough to give them a go. Others also recommend spiders and scorpions, but these two, in particular, seem to attract more tourists because of their crunchy texture. The worms are nutty in flavor, and the crickets have more meat to them.
19. Sweet pork sausages
When wandering around Cambodia’s markets, you’ll surely spot a lot of vendors with sausages hanging from their shops. These are Khmer pork sausages, locally known by many names, including sach krok, kwah ko, or twa ko. They are handmade, and the primary ingredients are pork and fat, so they’re very rich. These treats are also usually sweet in flavor. Locals enjoy this delicacy, and it is best paired with rice.
20. Pickled fruit
On a healthier note, you can opt to try some pickled fruit when you visit Cambodia. They can be found in many markets in the country. There are different types of fruits you can choose from, including mango, papaya, apple, or pineapple, among others. Pickled fruit is best consumed with a side of fish sauce, salt, sugar, and chili.
21. Grilled frog
Another exotic delicacy in Cambodia is grilled frog. It’s definitely something for those who are more adventurous in exploring new food. These little amphibians are usually on skewers ready to be grilled to your liking. Some have said that frog meat is very tender, even more than chicken. This dish is best enjoyed with some chili sauce for that flavorful kick.
22. Dumlowng (steamed sweet potatoes)
Another healthy option for tourists to try is dumlowng or steamed sweet potatoes. It’s a great snack especially for vegans and quite underrated. Sweet potato usually comes in either purple or white color when harvested. Dumlowng is then steamed instead of the usual frying method, which is how most street food is often cooked. Enjoy this healthy snack, which is rich in vitamins and anti-oxidants.
23. Num ansom chek (sticky rice cake with banana)
Num ansom chek is a tasty Cambodian dessert that is simple yet savory. It’s usually served during Cambodian New Year around April and Pchum Ben in September—two important festivals in the country. So you can be sure that this sweet delight is truly a festive treat. Num ansom chek is made from sticky rice and banana slices mixed with coconut milk and shavings. They are then wrapped in banana leaves and left to steam for a while. Since the earlier mentioned festivities take place within several days, the preparation of the desserts has also become a special part of the celebrations.
24. Akor cake (Cambodian cake)
Dubbed as Cambodian cake, akor cake is a little pastry that’s simple and flavorful. Though it is small, the texture is firm and similar to a cake. The ingredients of an akor cake are rice flour, sugar, and yeast. For those that come in yellow color, palm fruit is added for a more flavorful take on the pastry. You can find a lot of akor cakes in Phnom Penh, where much of its mass production takes place.
25. Nom pla-aye (rice flour dumplings)
Nom pla-aye or nom plae ai is a Cambodian rice flour dumpling. It is given the nickname “husband killer” because of folklore involving a newlywed couple. According to legend, the wife cooked a delicious serving of the rice flour dumpling for her husband when he arrived home. It smelled so good that he gobbled them all, and because it was hot from being newly cooked plus the texture of the dumpling is sticky, he choked and died. Hence the hilarious nickname. Flavor-wise, this treat is quite simple. It is made from glutinous rice flour and a generous filling of palm sugar in the center and then topped with coconut shavings.
26. Nom korng (ring donuts)
You probably wouldn’t expect donuts to be part of this list, but here it is! Nom korng or ring donuts is a Cambodian dessert fit for anyone with a sweet tooth. It’s slightly bigger than the typical donuts most people are accustomed to seeing. But what makes it stand out to many tourists is the crispy texture on the outside and the chewiness inside. Nom korng is usually drizzled with caramel glaze for a profound sweetness. Many who have tried it give a fair warning—it is highly addictive!
Taste the best of Cambodia's delicacies
Food is a great way to describe and experience the culture of a certain country. In Cambodia, the locals take pride in the variety of their street food. These treats are affordable, easily accessible, and really tasty, and both tourists and locals enjoy them. Some are exotic, and some are comfort food. Whatever it is you feel like trying out, one thing’s for sure, the delicacies you’ll find on the streets of Cambodia will surely give you a cultural experience to remember.
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