Top 10 Cambodian Foods Every Visitor Needs to Try

Cambodia is incredibly rich in waterways, from the Mekong, Bassa, and Sap Rivers to the massive lakes like Tonle Sap. It is the main reason why you will find luscious freshwater fish and seafood, such as squid, prawns, and salmon, in almost every part of the country. Aside from seafood, Cambodia is especially popular for offering soups, stir-fries, curries, and salads.

Moreover, when planning holidays to Cambodia, don’t forget to taste widely available but more expensive poultry dishes, including beef, duck, chicken, and more. A fearless eater can try many common protein sources, including fried tarantula, locusts, grilled snakes, and cooked scorpions. Furthermore, essential starches you can have in the country are rice, taro, sweet potatoes, and manioc.

All these dishes in Cambodia have been shaped by its history and culture, significantly influenced by a lasting French colonial rule. In this guide, you can explore the top 10 Cambodian foods you can’t miss trying when traveling the country.

Which foods should you try in Cambodia?

●      Amok (Coconut Fish Curry)

Amok trey is Cambodia’s national dish, prepared by tenderly steaming a fragrant and spicy coconut fish curry in banana leaves. It gives the dish a mousse-like texture and melts in the mouth. Moreover, the blended spice paste, known as kroeung, is also added to Amok. Instead of fish, the cook can also use chicken, snails, or tofu to prepare the dish.

●      Kuy Teav (Noodle Soup)

Treat your taste buds with one of the popular Cambodian foods, i.e., Kuy Teav. It is a noodle soup popularly eaten at breakfast and can be bought from street vendors. Kuy Teav is usually made using beef or pork bones and rice vermicelli. And fried shallots, garlic, bean sprouts, and green onion are used to flavor the broth. Beef or pork balls are added to the broth just before serving.

●      Nom Banh Chok (Khmer Noodles)

Non-Banh Chok is another noodle dish that Cambodians usually have for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. The fermented rice noodles are made in wooden mills, and some even prefer making them with their hands in stone.

It’s saturated with a gravy of lemongrass, turmeric, kaffir lime leaf, galangal, and freshwater fish, simmered in coconut milk for hours. Lastly, these Khmer noodles are topped with raw vegetables like water lily stems, banana blossom, cucumbers, and fresh herbs like basil and mint.

●      Kampot Pepper Crab

If you have ever gone for Vietnam tours, you will know how delicious pepper crab is. You can also have pepper crab in Cambodia; even the Kampot province is famous for its Kampot pepper crab. To make this dish, a garlicky sauce is used to fry the whole fresh crabs, and the famous Kampot green peppercorns are used to top the dish. The sweet crab meat is completed with the crunch of the pepper and other spices to enhance the dish’s deliciousness.

●      Samlar Machu (Sour Soup)

Meat, seafood, fish, and vegetables are cooked in a sour broth base to make Samlar Machu. The seasonal local vegetables and herbs used to cook this luscious dish might include cilantro, water spinach, kaffir lime leaves, shallots, hot basil, scallions, and lemongrass. Sometimes, another version of Samlar Machu is also made with pineapples.

Other key ingredients that you can taste in this dish are the fermented fish paste called prahok and the spice paste called kroeung. Cooks use souring agents like krasaing fruit seeds, kaffir lime juice, and tamarind to add sourness. It might become your favorite dish on  your holidays to Cambodia.

●      Lap Khmer (Beef Salad)

Lap Khmer has extremely bold flavors and is often eaten as a bar snack. This beef salad is prepared with equally sliced beef marinated in lime juice with mint, shallots, spicy chilies, fish sauce, garlic, and bell peppers.

●      Pleah Sach Ko (Beef Ceviche)

Pleah Sach Ko is another must-have Cambodian food usually prepared for weddings and similar festive occasions. This dish is typically made using thin, bite-sized raw beef pieces marinated in lime juice and then covered with a broth of chicken soup base mix, lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar.

Pleah Sach Ko is a healthy dish that contains a variety of chopped-up vegetables, including eggplants, radishes, shallots, garlic, jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, green onions, and fresh herbs, such as lemongrass, basil, saw leaf, cilantro, and mint. This sour and spicy dish is topped with crushed peanuts and roasted ground rice and can be served warm or chilled.

●      Samlar Kari (Chicken Curry)

It is a traditional Cambodian chicken curry that will drive your taste buds crazy. Samlar Kari is made with chicken pieces and a silky-smooth coconut sauce flavored with Cambodian kroeung paste, fish sauce, palm sugar, and shrimp paste. Moreover, locals enrich the dish with vegetables like purple sweet potatoes, bamboo shoots, onions, eggplants, carrots, spinach, or yard-long beans.

●      Yahon (Hot Pot)

A Cambodian hot pot, Yahon is a mix of vegetables, seafood, and meat. The broth is a mixture of coconut milk or cream, coconut soda, and chicken broth and is flavored with fish sauce, soybean curd sauce, barbecue sauce, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and palm sugar.

Typically, vegetables added to the Yahon include spinach, watercress, and bok choy, while meat and seafood usually have chicken, shrimp, beef, oysters, squids, and mussels. Furthermore, crushed peanuts, mushrooms, quail eggs, and (optionally) beer are other ingredients featured in this flavor-rich broth.

●      Lok Lak (Stir Fry)

Lok Lak is a stir fry made by Cambodians with beef, shrimp, and chicken as crucial ingredients. The beef version is most popular nationwide, which consists of a bed of lettuce leaves topped with tomatoes, cucumbers, stir-fried beef, and raw onions along with its juices.

The Bottom Line!

Relish the experience of trying all these traditional dishes when in Cambodia. Aside from these dishes, you can also find food stalls all over the markets and streets serving delicious sweets. Puddings and sweet soups made with coconut milk, fruit, beans, corn, and tapioca are famous and inexpensive snacks among locals. In addition, cater to your taste buds with sticky rice made of coconut and mango and a range of custards.

Overall, when traveling to Southeast Asia, whether Cambodia, Vietnam, or holidays to laos, you will find endless traditional foods and dishes to savor.