Squished between culinary heavyweights Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia is often overlooked when it comes to food. But once you’ve sampled Khmer cuisine, you won’t turn back. Here are 3 dishes to start you off in Cambodia.
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Bai sach chrouk: Pork and rice
No two bai sach chrouks are ever alike.
Served early mornings on street corners all over Cambodia, bai sach chrouk, or pork and rice, is one of the simplest and most delicious dishes the country has to offer.
Thinly sliced pork is slow grilled over warm coals to bring out its natural sweetness. Sometimes the pork will be marinated in coconut milk or garlic — no two bai sach chrouks are ever exactly the same.
The grilled pork is served over a hearty portion of broken rice, with a helping of freshly pickled cucumbers and daikon radish with plenty of ginger.
On the side, you’ll often be given a bowl of chicken broth topped with scallions and fried onions.
Fish whipped into a mousse. Tastes far better than it sounds.
Fish amok is one of the most well-known Cambodian dishes, but you’ll find similar meals in neighboring countries.
The addition of slok ngor, a local herb that imparts a subtly bitter flavor, separates the Cambodian version from the pack.
Fish amok is a fish mousse with fresh coconut milk and kroeung, a type of Khmer curry paste made from lemongrass, turmeric root, garlic, shallots, galangal and fingerroot, or Chinese ginger.
At upscale restaurants fish amok is steamed in a banana leaf, while more local places serve a boiled version that is more like a soupy fish curry than a mousse.
Khmer Red Curry
A red curry that doesn’t end in flames bursting from your mouth.
Less spicy than the curries of neighboring Thailand, Khmer red curry is similarly coconut-milk-based but without the overpowering chili.
The dish features beef, chicken or fish, eggplant, green beans, potatoes, fresh coconut milk, lemongrass and kroeung.
This delicious dish is usually served at special occasions in Cambodia such as weddings, family gatherings and religious holidays like Pchum Ben, or Ancestor’s Day, where Cambodians make the dish to share with monks in honor of the departed.
Khmer red curry is usually served with bread — a remnant of the French influence on Cambodia.