While not the strongest link in South East Asia’s chain of delightful cuisine, Khmer food is tasty and cheap and better than Burmese. Rice and occasionally noodles are the staples. Unlike in Thailand or Lao, spicy hot food in not the mainstay; black pepper is preferred over chilli peppers, though chillis are usually served on the side. Thai and Vietnamese influences can be noted in Khmer food, although Cambodians love strong sour tastes in their dishes.Prahok, a local fish paste, is common in Khmer cooking and may not please Western palates. There are plenty of Indian and Chinese restaurants in Phnom Penh and the larger towns.
Typical Khmer dishes include:
Amok – Arguably the most well known Cambodian dish. A coconut milk curried dish less spicy than those found in Thailand. Amok is usually made with chicken, fish or shrimp, plus some vegetables. It is sometimes served in a hollowed-out coconut with rice on the side. Quite delicious.
K’tieu (Kuytheav) – A noodle soup generally served for breakfast. Can be made with pork, beef or seafood. Flavourings are added to the customers taste in the form of lime juice, chili powder, sugar and fish sauce.
Somlah Machou Khmae – A sweet and sour soup made with pineapple, tomatoes and fish.
Bai Sarch Ch’rouk – Another breakfast staple. Rice (bai) with pork meat (sarch chrouk) often barbequed. Very tasty and served with some pickled vegetables.
Saik Ch’rouk Cha Kn’yei – Pork fried with ginger. Ginger is commonly used as a vegetable. This tasty dish is available just about everywhere.
Lok lak – Chopped up beef cooked quickly. Probably a holdover from the days of French colonization. Served with a simple dipping sauce made from lime juice and black pepper, lettuce, onion, and often with chips.
Mi / Bai Chaa – Fried noodles or rice. Never particularly inspiring, but a good traveller’s staple.
Trey Ch’ien Chou ‘Ayme – Trey (fish) fried with a sweet chili sauce and vegetables. Very tasty. Chou ‘ayme is the phrase for “sweet and sour”.
K’dam – Crab. Kampot in the south is famous for its crab cooked in locally sourced black pepper. A very tasty meal.
Don’t forget Khmer desserts – Pong Aime (sweets). These are available from stalls in most Khmer towns and can be excellent. Choose from a variety of sweetmeats and have them served with ice, condensed milk and sugar water. A must try is the Tuk-a-loc, a blended drink of fruits, raw egg, sweetened condensed milk and ice.
There is also a wide variety of fresh fruit available from markets. The prices vary according to which fruit is in season but mangoes (around Khmer New Year, with up to 9 varieties on sale) and mangosteen (May/June) are both superb.
Other popular Khmer foods which may be less palatable to foreigners includepregnant eggs(duck eggs with the embryo still inside), and almost every variety of creepy-crawly, including spiders, crickets, water beetles. Also, barbecued rats, frogs, snakes, bats and small birds can be found.