5 Dishes You Should Taste in Cambodia

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Ang dtray-meuk: grilled squid
Ang dtray-meuk: grilled squid

Cambodian cuisine include a variety of dishes which make the difference of Cambodia. The article lists 5 dishes you should taste in Cambodia.

1.Lap Khmer: Lime-marinated Khmer beef salad

Khmer beef salad features thinly sliced beef that is either quickly seared or “cooked” ceviche-style by marinating with lime juice.

Dressed with lemongrass, shallots, garlic, fish sauce, Asian basil, mint, green beans and green pepper, the sweet and salty dish also packs a punch in the heul (spicy) department with copious amounts of fresh red chilis.

A refreshing dish that is more beef than salad, lap Khmer is popular with Cambodian men, who prefer the beef to be nearly raw — but at restaurants it’s generally served grilled.

2. Nom banh chok: Khmer noodles

Nom banh chok
Nom banh chok

Nom banh chok is a beloved Cambodian dish, so much so that in English it’s called simply “Khmer noodles.”

Nom banh chok is a typical breakfast food, and you’ll find it sold in the mornings by women carrying it on baskets hanging from a pole balanced on their shoulders.

The dish consists of noodles laboriously pounded out of rice, topped with a fish-based green curry gravy made from lemongrass, turmeric root and kaffir lime.

Fresh mint leaves, bean sprouts, green beans, banana flower, cucumbers and other greens are heaped on top. There is also a red curry version that’s usually reserved for ceremonial occasions and wedding festivities.

3. Kdam chaa: fried crab

Fried crab is a specialty of the Cambodian seaside town of Kep. Its lively crab market is known for fried crab prepared with green, locally grown Kampot pepper.

Aromatic Kampot pepper is famous among gourmands worldwide, and although it is available in its dried form internationally, you’ll only be able to sample the distinctively flavored immature green peppercorns in Cambodia.

It’s worth a visit to Kep and Kampot for that alone, but Phnom Penh restaurants bring live crabs in from the coast to make their own version of this delicious dish, which includes both Kampot pepper and flavorful garlic chives.

4. Red tree ants with beef and holy basil

Red tree ants with beef and holy basil
Red tree ants with beef and holy basil

You’ll find all sorts of insects on the menu in Cambodia. Tarantulas included.

But the dish most appealing to foreign palates is stir-fried red tree ants with beef and holy basil.

Ants of various sizes, some barely visible and others almost an inch long are stir-fried with ginger, lemongrass, garlic, shallots and thinly sliced beef.

Lots of chilies complete the aromatic dish, without overpowering the delicate sour flavor that the ants impart to the beef.

This meal is served with rice, and if you’re lucky you’ll also get a portion of ant larvae in your bowl.

Try it at: Romdeng, 74 St. 174, Phnom Penh; +855 92 219 565

5. Ang dtray-meuk: grilled squid

In Cambodian seaside towns like Sihanoukville and Kep, you’ll find seafood sellers carrying small charcoal-burning ovens on their shoulders, cooking the squid as they walk along the shore.

The squid are brushed with either lime juice or fish sauce and then barbecued on wooden skewers and served with a popular Cambodian sauce, originally from Kampot, made from garlic, fresh chilies, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar.

The summer flavor of the shore can be had even in Phnom Penh, where many restaurants bring seafood from the coast to make similar versions of this dish.