Cambodian cuisine facts for kids
Cambodian cuisine is an umbrella term for the cuisines of all ethnic groups in Cambodia, whereas Khmer cuisine (Khmer: ម្ហូបខ្មែរ, UNGEGN: M'hop Khmê) refers specifically to the cuisine of the ethnic Khmers.
Khmer cuisine can be classified into peasant, elite and royal cuisine, although the difference between the royal and popular cuisine is not as pronounced as in the case of Thailand and Laos. The royal and elite dishes use more varied and higher quality ingredients, and contain more meat, whereas the peasant food is made from simpler and more accessible ingredients.
- History and influences
- Culinary diplomacy
History and influences
Because of Cambodia's geographic location rice and fish, especially freshwater fish, are the two most important sources of nutrients in the Cambodian diet. Rice is a staple food generally eaten at every meal. It is believed to have been cultivated in the territory of Cambodia since 2,000 to 5,000 B.C. The advanced hydraulic engineering during the Khmer Empire allowed the Khmer to harvest rice three to four times a year. According to the International Rice Research Institute, there are approximately 2,000 rice varieties indigenous to Cambodia developed over the centuries by the Cambodian rice farmers. One of them – "Malys Angkor" (ម្លិះអង្គរ, Mlih Ángkô) – has been regarded the world's best rice.
Due to the sustained historic interaction and shared influences, modern Cambodian cuisine has many similarities with its neighbouring Southeast Asian cuisines of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Indonesia. From 9th to 15th century the Khmer palace food developed into a refined royal cuisine, but after the defeat of the Khmer Empire and the Fall of Angkor in 1353 and 1431 the Khmer royal cooks were brought to the Ayutthaya Kingdom where they had a strong influence on the Thai royal cuisine. The original Khmer palace recipes were modified in Ayutthaya Kingdom, where during the reign of King Narai they also acquired a Portuguese influence, and eventually reintroduced back into Cambodia. Cambodian chef Kethana Dunnet has even dubbed Cambodian cuisine "the original Thai cuisine". Both Thai and Khmer royal cuisines used special flavouring pastes made out of various herbs and spices that were added to curries, soups, and stews.
Nowadays, the flavour principles of many Khmer dishes, such as sour fish soups, stews and coconut-based curries, including fish amok, are similar to Central Thai cuisine, although Khmer dishes contain much less chilli and sugar and make greater use of aromatic spices, such as cardamom, star anise, cloves, nutmeg, lemongrass, ginger, galangal, coriander, and wild lime leaves. Khmer cuisine has relatively less in common with Northeast Thai and Lao cuisines, however, they all utilize a fish paste in their cooking (called prahok in Khmer, pla ra in Thai and padaek in Lao), which could be a Khmer influence as both Laos and Northeast Thailand historically was part of the Khmer Empire.
With Vietnamese and Lao cuisine it shares the French influence as Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were all part of the French Indochina. Cambodian cuisine has also been directly influenced by Vietnamese cuisine after the Vietnamese colonization of Cambodia from 1834 to 1867 and Cambodia being under Vietnamese control from 1979 to 1989. Overall, Cambodian dishes are usually less salty than Vietnamese dishes.
|“||Khmer cuisine is all about fresh spices. There are influences from India, but always with fresh ingredients, not powders. Our cuisine is not as spicy as Thai and we don't use as much fish sauce as Vietnam, although we do love prahok. In France, they have almost unlimited types of cheese, and we are the same in Cambodia with prahok. It can be prepared in many ways, and the taste and texture are always different. We use very fresh spices that leave the diner feeling very light and refreshed. Indian food is characterised by spice, but we use a fresher spice.||”|
Historically, Cambodian cuisine has drawn upon elements from Chinese cuisine as well, adopting an extensive use of noodles, for example. The Chinese began arriving in the 13th century, with Chinese migration accelerating during the French Indochina period. Coconut-based curries (ការី, kari), on the other hand, as well as boiled red and white sweets show a trace of Indianization. In the 16th century, the Portuguese and Spanish began introducing various new food crops, such as tomatoes, papaya, pineapple, corn, potato, sweet potato, cassava and chilli from the New World that were incorporated into local dishes. After that, the French introduced pâté, salads, wine, coffee, asparagus and baguettes.
In the decades after World War II, many Cambodian urban middle-class and elite families employed cooks trained to prepare French dishes, and the children of these households often did not learn cooking themselves. The transmission of Cambodian traditional culinary knowledge was even more disrupted by the subsequent war and starvation in the 1970s and 1980s. During the Khmer Rouge regime in the mid-1970's culinary books were deemed "bourgeois" and burned and approximately 2 million Cambodians were killed. In 1975 the rice production in Cambodia had dropped by 84% in comparison with 1970, and from 1975 to 1979 the country experienced severe starvation, during which an estimated 500,000 to 1.5 million Cambodians perished (10–20% of the country's population).
|“||We’re slowly getting back all the recipes, but it takes time. If you lose the skilled people, but still have the documentation – you have something. If you lose the documentation, but still have the skilled people – you still have something. We had neither. When Cambodia finally found some peace in 1991, it took years until we really started to work on our culinary heritage. It just didn’t have any priority before then.||”|
Nowadays, more and more Asian fast food chains (such as The Pizza Company, Lotteria, Pepper Lunch, Yoshinoya and Bonchon) and Western fast food chains (such as Burger King, KFC, Krispy Kreme and Carl's Jr.) are entering the Cambodian market, especially in Phnom Penh, and fast food is becoming increasingly integrated into the Cambodian food scene, particularly among the younger generation. Since the mid-2010s there has been an emerging grassroots culinary movement in Siem Reap termed "New Cambodian Cuisine" loosely consisting of six Cambodian chefs and restauranteurs (Pola Siv, Sothea Seng, Pol Kimsan and Sok Kimsan, Mengly Mork and Pheak Tim) experimenting and presenting traditional Cambodian dishes in a modern way. Recently, mobile applications dedicated to Khmer traditional recipes have also been developed, such as "Khmer Cooking Recipe" downloaded more than 100,000 times on Google Play and "Khmer Cooking".
In the United States
Since the late 1970s, approximately 200,000 Cambodians have settled in the United States of America, nearly half in Southern California, fleeing the Khmer Rouge and the following economic and political turmoil in Cambodia. Cambodian Americans own about 9,000 businesses, predominantly restaurants and grocery stores catering to the local Cambodian American community. Interestingly, Cambodian Americans own around 90% of the 5,000 independently owned doughnut shops in California. The most successful of them was Ted Ngoy who at the peak of his success owned about 70 doughnut shops in California and was nicknamed "The Donut King".
Over time the food cooked by Cambodians in the United States developed into a distinct Cambodian American variety. Meat, especially beef and chicken, plays a much more central role in Cambodian American meals, which also make much more extensive use of tomatoes and corn. The unhealthy eating habits, such consumption of fatty meat, and obesity rates are higher for the Cambodian Americans who experienced a more severe food deprivation and insecurity in the past. The food of second and third generation Cambodian Americans has become more Americanized. Cambodian cuisine is not well known within the United States and is usually compared to Thai food by many Americans. Most Cambodian restaurants are located in cities with a significant Cambodian population, such as Lowell, Massachusetts, Long Beach, California and Seattle, Washington. Some of the Cambodian-owned restaurants, however, serve other Asian cuisines, especially Thai and Chinese, whereas in the ones that serve Cambodian cuisine Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese-influenced dishes usually dominate over Khmer dishes.
Long Beach, California has the most Cambodian restaurants in the U.S. – twenty two, including Phnom Penh Noodle Shack and Sophy's. Some Cambodian-owned restaurants in the city, such as Little La Lune Cuisine and Crystal Thai Cambodian, serve Thai food, while others, such as Hak Heang or Golden Chinese Express, serve Chinese food. Lowell, Massachusetts, has at least twenty Cambodian restaurants, among them Tepthida Khmer and Simply Khmer. Other notable Cambodian restaurants include Sok Sab Bai in Portland, as well as Phnom Penh Noodle House and Queen's Deli in Seattle. The most famous Cambodian restaurant in the U.S. is The Elephant Walk serving French-inspired Khmer cuisine. It was opened in 1991 in Cambridge, Massachusetts by Longteine "Nyep" de Monteiro. The restaurant also created a cookbook of the same name, which is the first Cambodian American cookbook. In 2000 a part of Central Long Beach was officially designated as Cambodia Town and since 2005 an annual parade and culture festival takes place there that also features Cambodian cooking and food.
A Cambodian American restaurant gaining prominence recently has been Nyum Bai owned by Cambodian American chef Nite Yun. It started as a pop-up in San Francisco in 2013, before being moved to a kiosk in Emeryville, California and finally opened in a brick and mortar location in Fruitvale, Oakland, California in 2017. In 2018 Nyum Bai was included in the 5th place of America's Best New Restaurants by the food magazine Bon Appétit, while Yun was named one of the Best New Chefs by the Food & Wine magazine in 2019.
In Cambodian meals just like the rest of Southeast Asia, all dishes are served and eaten simultaneously, as opposed to the European course-based meal format or the Chinese meal with overlapping courses. The only exception is if the meal contains French-style dishes, in which case the dishes are served in courses. A Cambodian meal will usually include steamed rice and a soup served with a number of side dishes. While steamed rice and soups are usually served hot, side dishes may be served at room temperature. The balance of flavours and satisfaction of individual preferences are achieved by combining the individual dishes and rice. For example, a Cambodian meal may consist of a sour soup, a salty fish, fried vegetables and plain rice, which is different from Thai food where sourness, saltiness, sweetness and spiciness are usually contained within a single dish.
In Khmer cuisine, a distinction is made between fermented seafood depending on its consistency and the ingredient. Mam is the general term for seafood fermented with a special technique and usually includes more solid pieces of the fermented ingredient. Prahok and kapi have a finer consistency than mam and are popular bases for sauces. Both mam and prahok are aged for at least a year for the flavour to fully develop, much like fish sauce. Sauces made with prahok and kapi are often eaten with high protein-based dishes or raw vegetables to aid digestion.
- Fermented fish eggs (ពងត្រី, pông trei)
- A variation of fermented seafood made from roe. They are removed from the dish, cleaned, drained, and fermented separately. Fermented fish eggs are primarily eaten with steamed eggs, omelettes and other hen or duck egg dishes.
- Prahok (ប្រហុក, prâhŏk)
- A fish paste used as flavouring for almost every Khmer dish, mixed with rice or served as a dipping sauce (ទឹកជ្រលក់, tœ̆k chrôluŏk). There are two types of prahok: prahok chhoeung made from small fish with all the bones and 15–20% salt, and prahok sach (ប្រហុកសាច់, prâhŏk săch) made from large deboned fish and 25–30% salt, which in turn can be made from larger fish (such as the striped snakehead (trei roh)) or smaller fish (such as trei kamplienh), with or without roe. Prahok can also be prepared into dishes of its own, such as prahok k'tis (ប្រហុកខ្ទិះ, prâhŏk khtih), prahok kap (ប្រហុកកប់, prâhŏk káp), teuk khreung, teuk prahok prahok ang (ប្រហុកអាំង, prâhŏk ăng), and prahok chien (ប្រហុកចៀន, prâhŏk chiĕn).
- Fish sauce (ទឹកត្រី, tœ̆k trei)
- Fish sauce is an important ingredient in Khmer cooking, used to add saltiness to soups and noodle dishes, or for marinating meats. It is also used as a dipping sauce in many varieties depending on the type of dish.
- Hoisin sauce (ទឹកសៀង, tœ̆k siĕng)
- It is used when marinating meat that will be grilled and especially for kuyteav or soups with hand pulled noodles.
- Oyster sauce (ទឹកប្រេងខ្យង, tœ̆k préng khyâng)
- Oyster sauce was introduced by Chinese immigrants. It is a common ingredient in Khmer cooking used to add a tangy-sweet flavour to meats and stir-fried vegetables. Oyster sauce, along with fish sauce, and soy sauce, is commonly used together when seasoning foods.
- Shrimp paste (កាពិ, kapĭ)
- Another common ingredient in Khmer cuisine. Shrimp paste is often mixed with sugar, garlic, lime juice, chilli and crushed peanuts and used as a dipping sauce for vegetables, fruit, meat and fish. It is also a common ingredient in some curries and green papaya salad adding saltiness and enriching the flavour of the dish. Shrimp paste is made by pounding cleaned, dried and salted shrimp into a homogenous paste, sun-drying it for one day, pounding the paste again, sun-drying it for two more days and pounding the paste for the final time to attain a viscous consistency. It is stored in air-tight jars and has a shelf life of around 2–3 months.
- Soy sauce (ទឹកស៊ីអ៊ីវ, tœ̆k si-iv; តៅអ៊ីវ, tau iv; សាអ៊ីវ, sa-iv or ស៊ីអ៊ីវ, si-iv)
- A common ingredient and condiment, mixed with garlic or aged radish to be eaten with primarily high protein dishes. It is used to add saltiness when the fish sauce is not used.
- Tamarind sauce (ទឹកអម្ពិល, tœ̆k âmpĭl)
- A sauce made from tamarind paste mixed with fish sauce, garlic, chilli peppers, lime juice, palm sugar, and vinegar.
Peppercorns have been cultivated in Cambodia since at least the 13th century. In 2016 the Kampot pepper was granted a protected geographical indication by the European Union. There are four types of Kampot pepper – green, black, white and red – each used for different dishes. Green Kampot pepper is usually fried fresh with meat or seafood, red Kampot pepper is often used for salads and desserts, as well as red game meat, whereas white Kampot pepper is added to dishes with a milder flavour. Kampot pepper has been described as having a "uniquely strong yet delicate aroma" and "slightly sweet, eucalyptus taste", and it has often been regarded as the world's best pepper.
Wild cardamom grows in the aptly named Cardamom Mountains in the southwest of the country, bordering the Gulf of Thailand coast to the south and Trat Province in Thailand to the west. Locals use cardamom medicinally and in certain samlars, using the root of the plant as well as the pod. Turmeric is grown in Battambang Province and is a common ingredient in many curry powders, soups and rice dishes.
Tamarind is commonly employed as a soup base for dishes such as samlar machu. Star anise is a must when caramelizing meat in palm sugar, for example, for a braised pork ear and organ dish called pak lov (ផាក់ឡូវ, pak ḷūv). Turmeric, galangal, ginger, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves are essential spices in Khmer cooking, Khmer stews, and nearly all curries.
Palm sugar is produced by slowly boiling down the palm tree sap. It is one of the main ingredients in Khmer desserts. Palm sugar is also used in samlars and for caramelizing. In 2016, Kompong Speu Palm Sugar (ស្ករត្នោតកំពង់ស្ពឺ, Skor Thnaot Kompong Speu) in its four forms (granular, paste, block, and syrup) was recognized with a geographical indication in Cambodia and in 2019 a protected geographical indication in the European Union. In 2018, there were 300 tonnes of Kompong Speu Palm Sugar being produced.
- Black pepper (ម្រេច, mréch)
- Cardamom (ក្រវាញ, krâvanh)
- Chili pepper (ម្ទេស, mtéh)
- Coconut cream (ខ្ទិះដូង, khtih dong)
- Fingerroot (ខ្ខ្ជាយ, khchéay)
- Galangal (មើមខ្ញី, meum khnhei)
- Ginger (ខ្ញី, khnhei)
- Kaffir lime leaves (ស្លឹកក្រូចសើច, slœ̆k kroch saeuch)
- Lemongrass (ស្លឹកគ្រៃ, slœ̆k krey)
- Palm sugar (ស្ករត្នោត, skâ tnaôt)
- Pandan leaves (ស្លឹកតើយ, slœ̆k taeuy)
- Salt (អំបិល, âmbĕl)
- Shallots (ខ្ទឹមក្រហម, khtœ̆m krâhâm)
- Star anise (ចាន់ការី, chănkari)
- Sugar (ស្ករ, skâ)
- Tamarind (អម្ពិល, âmpĭl)
- Turmeric (រមៀត, rômiĕt)
- Jicama root (ដំឡូងរលួស, dâmlong rôluŏh or ប៉ិកួៈ, pĕkuŏk)
Kroeung (គ្រឿង, krœăng – 'ingredients') is a Khmer fresh flavouring paste commonly used in curries, soups and stir-fries, one of the essential ingredients of Cambodian cuisine. The base of the paste consists of lemongrass, galangal, garlic, shallots, kaffir lime leaves and turmeric. There are five common types of kroeung: yellow kroeung (kroeung samlar m’chu), green kroeung (kroeung prâhoeur) and red kroeung (kroeung samlar kari), as well as k’tis kroeung (kroeung samlar ktih), and saraman kroeung (kroeung samlar saraman).
Vegetables such as winter melon, bitter melon, luffa, water spinach and yardlong beans are used in soups and stews. Oriental squash can be stewed, stir fried or sweetened and steamed with coconut milk as a dessert. Vegetables such as mushrooms, cabbage, baby corn, bamboo shoots, fresh ginger, gailan, snow peas, and pak choi are commonly used in many stir fry dishes. Collectively these stir fry dishes are known by the generic term cha (ឆ, chaa). Banana blossoms are cut and added to some noodle dishes such as num banh chok.
- Asian basil (ជីនាងវង, chi néangvông)
- Aubergine (ក្រាមរមាស, kram rôméah or ត្រប់, tráp)
- Bean sprouts (សណ្ដែកបណ្ដុះ, sándêk bándŏh)
- Betel leaves (ស្លឹកម្លូ, slœ̆k mlu)
- Bitter melon (ម្រះ, mreăh)
- Cabbage (ស្ពៃក្តោប, spey kdaôp)
- Carrot (ការ៉ុត, karŏt)
- Cassava (ក្ដួច, kduŏch)
- Cauliflower (ផ្កាខាត់ណា, phka khăt-na)
- Chayote (ផ្លែស៊ូ, phlê su)
- Chinese kale (ខាត់ណាចិន, khăt-na chĕn)
- Chives (គូឆាយ, kuchhay)
- Coriander (ជីវ៉ាន់ស៊ុយ, chivănsŭy)
- Cucumber (ត្រសក់, trâsák)
- Hot mint (ជីក្រសាំងទំហំ, chi krâsăng tumhum or ជីពងទាកូន, chi pông téa kon)
- Lotus stems (ក្រអៅឈូក, krâ-au chhuk)
- Lotus rhizomes (ឫសឈូក, rœ̆h chhuk)
- Neem leaves (ស្លឹកស្ដៅ, slœ̆k sdau)
- Saw leaf herb (ជីបន្លា, chi bánla)
- Sweet potatoes (ដំឡូងជ្វា, dámlong chvéa)
- Pak choi (ស្ពៃតឿ, speytéa)
- Peppermint (ជីរអង្កាម, chi ángkam or ជីរមហោ, chi rômhaô)
- Rice paddy herb (ម្អម, mʼâm)
- Radish (រ៉ាឌី, radi)
- Tapioca (ម្សៅក្ដួច, msau kduŏch)
- Tapioca balls (គុជខ្យងតាហ្គីកា, kŭch khyâng tagika)
- Vine spinach (វល្លិ៍ជន្លង់, voă chónlóng)
- Yardlong bean (សណ្ដែកកួរ, sándêk kuŏch)
- Water morning glory (ត្រកួន, trâkuŏch)
- Winter melon (ផ្លែត្រឡាច, phlê trâlach)
Fruits in Cambodia are so popular that they have their own royal court. The durian is considered the "king", the mangosteen the "queen", sapodilla the "prince" and the milk fruit the "princess". Other popular fruit include kuy fruit, romduol, pineapple, rose apple, jackfruit, papaya, watermelon, banana, mango and rambutan.
Although fruits are usually considered desserts, some such as ripe mangoes, watermelon, and pineapples are eaten commonly with heavily salted fish with plain rice. Fruits are also made into smoothies (ទឹកក្រឡុក, tœ̆k krâlŏk). Popular fruits for smoothies are durian, mangoes and bananas.
- Apple (ប៉ោម, paôm)
- Banana (ចេក, chék)
- Breadfruit (សម្, sam)
- Sugar cane (អំពៅ, ámpŏu)
- Cashew (ស្វាយចន្ទី, svaychănti)
- Coconut (ដូង, dong)
- Custard apple (ទៀប, tiĕp)
- Dragon fruit (ស្រការ, srâka)
- Durian (ទុរេន, tŭrén)
- Milk fruit (ផ្លែទឹកដោះគោ, phlê tœ̆k daôh ko)
- Guava (ត្របែក, trɑbaek)
- Jackfruit (ផ្លែខ្នុរ; phlê khnaô or phlê khnŏl)
- Key lime (ក្រូចឆ្មារ, krouc chmaa)
- Kumquat (ផ្លែកុមខ្វាត់; phlê kŏmkhvăt)
- Kuy fruit (ផ្លែគុយ, phlê kŭy)
- Langsat (ឡុងកុង, lŏng kŏng)
- Longan (មៀន, miĕn)
- Lotus seeds (គ្រាប់ពូជឈូក, kroăp puch chhuk)
- Lychee (គូលែន, kulén)
- Mango (ស្វាយ, svay)
- Mango plum (ម៉ាក់ប្រាង, măprang)
- Mangosteen (មង្ឃុត, móngkhŭt)
- Palmyra fruit seeds (គ្រាប់ត្នោត, kroăp tnaôt)
- Papaya (ល្ហុង, lhŏng)
- Persimmon (ផ្លែទន្លាប់, phlê tónloăp)
- Pineapple (ម្នាស់, mnoăh)
- Pomelo (ផ្លែក្រូចថ្លុង, phlê kroch thlŏng)
- Rambutan (សាវម៉ាវ, sav mav)
- Sapodilla (សាប៉ូឌីឡា, sapodila)
- Snake fruit (ផ្លែសាឡាក់, phlê salăk or ផ្លែរកាំ, phlê rôkăm)
- Soursop (ផ្លែទៀបបារាំង, phlê tiĕp barăng – 'foreign custard apple fruit')
- Star fruit (ផ្លែស្ពឺ, phlê spœ)
- Star gooseberry (កន្ទួត, kántuŏt)
- Tomato (ប៉េងប៉ោះ, péngpaôh)
- Watermelon (ឪឡឹក, âulœ̆k)
Since 2018, Koh Trong Pomelos (ក្រូចថ្លុងកោះទ្រង, kroch thlŏng Kaôh Trông) are recognized as one of the geographical indications in Cambodia. Pomelos grown in the Kratié Province's Koh Trong commune are known for their sweeter taste and the absence of seeds after ripening.
Fish and meat
There are more than 900 different freshwater and saltwater fish species found in Cambodia. Approximately 475,000 tons of fish are caught in Cambodia every year and a Cambodian annually consumes 63 kg of fish on average. They are fried, dried, smoked and fermented into prahok or fish sauce. Fish and fish products are eaten two to three times a day. Cambodian chef Luu Meng has estimated that approximately 40–50% of Cambodian dishes are made with fish.
It is known that in the late-13th century Khmer Empire cows were not used for riding, meat or hide and the geese had been recently introduced by the Chinese sailors. Since the 1980s, the role of meat in the Cambodian diet has increased significantly and nowadays the consumption of meat, such as beef, pork and poultry, has become common, especially in the capital region. Pork is made into air-dried sausages called sach krok. Beef and chicken is stewed, grilled or stir-fried, while duck roasted in char siu style is popular during festivals.
Other seafood includes an array of shellfish such as crabs, clams, cockles, crayfish, shrimp and squid. Boiled or fried cockles seasoned with salt, chili, and garlic are sold as a popular street food. Giant freshwater prawns are usually only eaten by middle and upper-class Cambodians because of their price. More unusual varieties of meat include frogs (most commonly eaten are East Asian bullfrogs, rice field frogs, balloon frogs, banded bullfrogs, yellow frogs and Asian common toads), turtles, and arthropods (such as tarantulas, red ants, grasshoppers, giant water bugs and crickets). Crickets, water bugs, and tarantulas are seasoned with salt, sugar and oil, deep-fried and sold as street food.
- Beef (សាច់គោ, săch koo)
- Char siu (សាច់ជ្រូកសាក់សុីវ, săch chruk sa səyv)
- Chicken meat (សាច់មាន់, săch mŏən)
- Crocodile meat (សាច់ក្រព, săch krɑpəə)
- Crickets (ចង្រិត, cɑngrət)
- Duck meat (សាច់ទា, săch tiə)
- Eggs (ស៊ុត, sut or ពង, pông)
- Fish (ត្រី, trei)
- Frog (កង្កែប, kɑngkaep)
- Pâté (ប៉ាតេរី, paatee)
- Pork (សាច់ជ្រូក, săch chruk)
- Sausage (សាច់ក្រក, săch krɑɑk)
- Snail (ខ្យង; khyâng)
- Siu mei (ខ្វៃ, kvɑy – 'roast')
- Tarantula (សត្វអាពីង, sata piing)
- Water buffalo meat (សាច់ក្របី, săch krɑbəy)
Cambodian noodle dishes have adopted many elements from the Chinese and developed into distinct Cambodian variations. For example, rice vermicelli is used in the Cambodian variation of the Cantonese chǎo fěn with gravy, however, unlike Chinese chǎo fěn, the noodles in the Cambodian variation are plated under the stir-fried beef and vegetables and topped off with scrambled eggs.
Many Cambodian street foods (ម្ហូបតាមផ្លូវ, mohop taamphləw) combine influences from China and Southeast Asia. Street food is considered a snack rather than a meal. Food stalls are called hang bai (ហាងបាយ, hang bay) or simply hang (ហាង, hang) in Khmer, which is a borrowing from Chinese háng ("store", "business"). More specifically the stalls are referred to by the main food served, for example, rice noodle stalls (ហាងគុយទាវ, hang kŭytéav) or coffee stalls (ហាងកាហ្វេ, hang kafe).
Cambodian cuisine features a variety of noodles eaten with different broths, such as kuyteav broth eaten with wheat vermicelli or silver needle noodles. Many Cambodian noodle soups been have influenced by the Chinese and thus bear many similarities with other Chinese-influenced Southeast Asian noodle soups.
Soups/stews and hot pot
Samlar (សម្ល) refers to soup dishes that are eaten with rice and sup (ស៊ុប) refer to dishes that can be eaten without the need for rice, these usually being dishes of Chinese or European origin. Chhang plerng refers to the general term of hot pot popularly eaten during the colder dry season and during late-night gatherings.
Stir-fried and rice dishes
Salads, rolls, and steamed foods
- Saku (tapioca dessert)
- A type of steamed dessert made from chestnut flour, coconut milk, and cooked mung beans.
- Sesame balls (នំក្រូច, num kroch – 'orange cake')
- A fried pastry with a mung bean filling brought to Cambodia by Chinese immigrants. The Khmer name "orange cake" refers to the fruit which it resembles.
Sticky rice dishes and dumplings
- Banana sticky rice (នំអន្សមចេក, num ansam chek)
- Cylindrical rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves and filled with bananas. Similar to Thai khao tom.
- Bai ben (បាយបិណ្ឌ)
- A sticky rice dessert that is moulded into a ball and topped with sesame seeds. It is very popular during Pchum Ben.
- Durian sticky rice (បាយដំណើបទុរេន, bai damnaeb tŭrén)
- A sticky rice dessert topped with sweet coconut milk and slices of durian fruit. A variation of that is mango sticky rice (បាយដំនើបស្វាយ, bai damnaeb svay).
- Siev mai
- A Cambodian rendition of a Chinese pork dumplings. In Khmer "siev mai" not only refers to the dumpling but also a style of meatballs created by the southern Chinese immigrants in Phnom Penh.
- Sticky rice cakes
- Glutinous rice flour pastries steamed in banana leaves with different sweet or savoury fillings. The pyramid-shaped num chang are filled with pork, sausage, and beans and are derived from Chinese zongzi, the pyramid-shaped num bot (នំបត) are filled with mung bean paste and the pyramid-shaped num kom (នំគម) are filled with a mixture of coconut shavings, toasted sesame seeds and palm sugar. The cylinder-shaped num ansom (នំអន្សម) can either be filled with sugar bananas and jackfruits (នអន្សមចេក, num ansom chek), or pork (នំអន្សមជ្រូក, num ansom chrouk). In addition to steaming num ansom can also be fried or grilled depending on the occasion. Sticky rice cakes are given as offerings to the manes of the ancestors on Pchum Ben to gain their blessing to the rice fields.
- Tapioca cakes (num sakoo)
- Tapioca balls stuffed with meat that is similar to Thai khanom sakoo and Lao khao nom sakoo. Minced meat is seasoned and cooked then wrapped in a tapioca mixture and steamed. The dish is often served with vegetables and sweet sauce. A variation in Vietnam also exists called bánh ít trần, as well as Malaysia and Indonesia.
Jellies and puddings
Cambodian cuisine features a variety of desserts similar to its Southeast Asian neighbours. Its assortment of puddings is called cha houy tuek ("jelly") or babor p'aem ("sweet porridge") depending on the ingredients of the dish. Agar jelly desserts are collectively called sarai (សារាយ).
- Grass jelly (ចាហ៊ួយខ្មៅ, cha huoy khmaw)
- Often eaten with soybean milk in a bowl during a hot day because of its cooling properties.
- Num lot
- A green or white dessert made from rice flour in a liquid of coconut, milk, water and sugar. A similar dish is Indonesian cendol.
- Green tea (តែបៃតង, tae baytɑɑng)
- A drink possibly introduced in the Khmer Empire by the Chinese. Despite the growing consumption and suitable climate most green tea in Cambodia is imported and very little is grown locally. Camellia sinensis cambodiensis, a local strain of the tea plant, grows in the Kirirom National Park, in the remnants of a former 300 hectare tea plantation established in the 1960s by the King Norodom Sihanouk, and the area around Chamkar Te village in Mondulkiri Province. Recently, there have been efforts to revive the Cambodian tea production.
- Coffee (កាហ្វេ, kaafee)
- An increasingly popular beverage served either iced (កាហ្វេទឹកកក, kaafee tœ̆k kɑɑk) or hot, with (កាហ្វេទឹកដោះគោ, kaafee tɨkdɑhkoo) or without milk. A black strong coffee without milk is called Khmer coffee (កាហ្វេខ្មែរ, keafee khmae). Coffee is sold all throughout Cambodia in coffee carts, coffeehouse chains and specialty coffee shops. In 2020 there were more than 800 coffeehouses in Cambodia (300 in Phnom Penh and 500 in other provinces). The biggest one was Thai-owned Amazon Coffee with 140 branches nationwide. More than 90% of all coffee in Cambodia is imported from other countries, including Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand.
- Lemon iced tea (តែទឹកក្រូចឆ្មា, tae krouc chmaa)
- Smoothies (ទឹកក្រឡុក, tœ̆k krɑlok)
- An important part of an evening's consumption available at juice stalls set up in towns all over the country from the late afternoon. They can contain a mixture of fruits or just one or two; coconut milk, sugar syrup, condensed milk and shaved ice are also added, as is a raw egg (unless specified otherwise – ot yoh pong mowan).
- Soy milk (ទឹកសណ្ដែក, tœ̆k sɑndaek)
- Sold in the morning by street vendors; the green version is sweetened and thicker than the unsweetened white. Served either hot or cold, sweetened or unsweetened.
- Sugarcane juice (ទឹកអំពៅ, tœ̆k ʼɑmpɨw)
- A popular street drink made by pressing the juice out of sugarcane stalks with a special machine. Served with ice and sometimes flavoured with citrus to balance the sweetness. A cafe in Phnom Penh also mixes sugarcane juice with durian, mint, passion fruit, pineapple, pandan leaves and guava.
- Pandan juice (ទឹកតើយ, tœ̆k taeuy)
- A juice made from the extract of pandan leaves and usually sold in Cambodian food stalls.
- Teuk kroch (ទឹកក្រូច, tœ̆k krooc – 'citrus water')
- A generic term in Khmer for sweet and sour soft drinks, such as limeade.
In December 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation launched an official "Food Diplomacy 2021–2023" campaign as part of a larger economic diplomacy strategy. At the launch Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn listed prahok, fish amok, pomelo salad, samlar korko, coconut-pineapple curry (samlar k'tis), coconut prahok dip and num banh chok as some of the Khmer dishes to be promoted in the campaign. The ministry also established a program to train Cambodian cooks for serving in Cambodian embassies and a program for providing ambassador spouses with knowledge about the Khmer cuisine.
In February 2021 the ministry published a cookbook "The Taste of Angkor" as a culinary promotion tool for Cambodian diplomatic missions abroad and in May it republished an expanded edition of a 1960 Cambodian cookbook and culinary guide "The Culinary Art of Cambodia" by Princess Norodom Rasmi Sobbhana.
In 2009 the cookbook "From Spiders to Water Lilies, Creative Cambodian Cooking with Friends" published by the non-governmental organization "Friends-International" received the Gourmand World Cookbook Award as the "Best Asian Cuisine Cookbook", becoming the first book from Cambodia to win the award.
In 2010 the French-language Khmer cookbook Au Pays de la Pomme Cythère, de Mère en Fille, Authentiques Recettes Khmères written and self-published by Kanika Linden and her mother Sorey Long won the Gourmand Awards for the world's "Best Asian Cuisine Cookbook". The English-language version of the book "Ambarella, Cambodian Cuisine" won Gourmand Awards in 2013 for the "Best Asian Cuisine Cookbook" in the UK and world's "Best Asian Cuisine Cookbook" in 2014.
In 2015 Joannès Rivière's Cuisine Wat Damnak was included in the 50th position of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, becoming the first Cambodian restaurant to make the list. In the 2016 list it rose to the 43rd position.
In 2019 Cambodian chefs from the Cambodia Chefs' Association won the ASEAN Gourmet Challenge with three gold medals, as well as received six silver and 17 bronze medals in the Global Pastry Chefs Challenge and Global Young Chefs Challenge categories at the Thailand Ultimate Chef Challenge taking place from 28 May to 1 June in Bangkok.
Cambodian cuisine Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.