Cambodian food is so much like Thai, Laos, and Vietnamese food, although it has its own noticeable subtlety because of the traditional ingredients used in every dish. That said, it is not as spicy as Thai and Vietnamese food. Rice and freshwater fish are staple food, and every meal consists of soup, main dish, and dessert.
If you want to experience a real Cambodian travel experience, try the following local food.
Nom banh chok
Also called Khmer noodles, nom banh chok is a popular breakfast dish. Rice vermicelli noodles are topped with fresh string long beans, cucumber, banana blossoms, onions, and wild herbs. Gravy is poured over the noodles to complete the dish ensemble. There are two choices for gravy: green curry and fish gravy. Fish gravy, however, is more popular. The noodle dish comes with lemon wedges, salt, and some chilies to suit your taste.
Where will you find this delectable, refreshing noodle dish? Street vendors and markets have this dish. Some markets have a floor mat, so you can sit on the ground while enjoying the noodles. In some places, small eateries offer nom banh chok as well.
One whole cow, head chopped off. The cow is skewered, put over heat, and cooked. You tell the vendor which part of the cow you want, and the vendor will cut that part out for you and put on the grill just below the cow, which, by the way, is nearly cooked on the outside but not on the inside. When your cow part is cooked, the vendor will chop and serve it in a bowl. The spit-barbecued cow is dipped into a tangy sauce of lime, salt, and pepper.
Why should you try this? One whole cow barbecued in the open doesn’t seem like an appetizing meal, but when you get to taste it, you will be surprised that the meat is flavorful and tender. Plus, eating a spit-barbecued cow is an authentic Cambodian food trip experience.
Spit-barbecued cows are sold in roadside night markets. You can easily spot them; they’re too big to miss.
Locals love stir-fried frogs. Proof? Stir-fried frogs are everywhere. You see them in street stalls, while some restaurants offer stir-fried frog legs. And yes, they taste like chicken. They are crispy, too. Stir-fried frogs are often stuffed with herbs and lemongrass, which add to their flavor. They are eaten as is or with rice.
A note to the uninitiated: You might want to close your eyes as you put the whole thing in your mouth. Savor the flavor, and who knows, you might want to get another piece.
Stir-fried baby snakes and insects
Yes, Cambodians love these kinds of stuff.
It is rooted in their history. Cambodians learned to eat all possible sources of protein during the Khmer Rouge regime, a horrid period when they had nothing to eat.
Fast forward to the present: Cambodians still eat these kinds of food not mainly to survive but as part of a gastronomical tradition.
Stir-fried baby snakes and insects are cooked and sold in street stalls. Snakes are skewered on bamboo sticks, while stir-fried insects, like spiders, beetles, grasshoppers, and crickets, are placed in plastic bags or vats. Locals swing by the stalls to pick some afternoon snack from the assorted fried snakes and insects.
If eating multiple-legged creatures seem unappetizing to you, then pinch off the legs, the wings, and/or the head. Pop the creatures into your mouth and enjoy the chicken-like taste.
Kralan is Cambodia’s rice cake. Rice cakes are too common in the country, but what’s interesting in kralan is that it is stuffed into a bamboo, so you have to peel the bamboo off to eat the rice cake. Sold in wet markets and street stalls, kralan is a delicious, sticky treat.
Kralan is made by mixing rice with grated coconut meat, coconut milk, and red beans and shoving it into a bamboo. The bamboo will then be roasted until the rice cake inside is delicately cooked.