Sweet, salty, sour and bitter—a flavor for every taste bud.user rating
Khmer cuisine and Cambodian cuisine are interchangeable names for the food eaten by the people of Cambodia. Normally, they eat their meals from four separate dishes of sweet, sour, salty and bitter foods. Combining spices and other ingredients to create intricate flavors is fundamental. Fermented fish paste called prahok and fermented shrimp paste called kapi are widely used to add flavor. Kroeung is another flavorful and fragrant cooking paste made by blending fresh herbs and spices like cardamom, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, galangal, garlic, shallots, cilantro and kaffir lime leaves.
Cambodian soups and stews draw inspiration from Chinese cuisine with unusual vegetables like winter melon, bitter melon, luffa and yardlong beans. Popular stir-fry dishes incorporate other vegetables such as mushrooms, cabbage, baby corn, bamboo shoots, fresh ginger, Chinese broccoli, snow peas and bok choy. Chinese and Vietnamese noodle dishes have also been adapted to the Khmer style of cooking.
Fruits are a favorite in Cambodia especially when used as a dessert or made into a shake or smoothie beverage. A few types of fruit are also served as an accompaniment to salted fish and plain rice. Popular fruits include durian, mangosteen, sapodilla, milk fruit, jan fruit, kuy fruit, romduol, pineapple, star apple, rose apple, coconut, palmyra fruit, jackfruit, papaya, watermelon, banana, mango and rambutans.
Fish is most commonly used in the Khmer diet but beef, chicken, pork and shellfish are also used. Chinese-style duck is roasted for certain festivals. Other less common meats include frog, turtle and anthropods like tarantulas.
If you want to sample authentic Khmer cooking when traveling in Cambodia, look for amok trei, which is fish in coconut milk and kroeung wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. Bai cha is the Khmer version of fried rice with sausage, garlic, soy sauce and herbs, often served with pork. Kuytheav is beef noodle soup with fresh bean sprouts, green onion and cilantro. And for dessert, sankya lapov is a pumpkin and coconut flan.—Jennifer Capalbo