Cambodian cuisine is often times overlooked. Most people in the western world do not have experience with the nation’s delicious eats. Many times being overshadowed by the food mecca, Thailand, this particular Asian cuisine is less talked about. Well, we want to talk to you about it!
While it has a comparable breath in ingredient usage to its sister states, Thailand and Vietnam, it is all its own. With unique takes on rice-centric entrees, each region is known for using what is most prevalent. Near the sea, of course, it is usual to enjoy seafood. Inland, flavorful pork is a staple. ‘Khmer food’ is interchangeably utilized to describe this specific country’s Asian cuisine.
Bai sach chrouk: Pork and rice
Pig and rice for breakfast? Cambodia does it well! On the street corners, it is customary to see these vats of goodness with rolling steam, ascending to the food heavens. Before you turn your nose up at pork and rice for breakfast, you must give it a try! Over broken rice, locals will mound freshly grilled pork into a heap, spiced with garlic and at times, marinated in coconut milk. The sweetness and creaminess pairs well with the pickled cucumbers and daikon radish with ginger traditionally served to the side. To sauce it up, piping hot chicken broth with floating scallions is served as an extra juice used to drizzle over top.
So tell us again, what did you think about pork and rice for breakfast?
Lap Khmer: Beef Salad
This salad is not for the vegetarians; freshly shaved beef, marinated ceviche-style with lime and then quickly seared, it is served with freshly sautéed veggies. Do not let the name fool you though, it is far more beef than it is green. Topped with fish sauce, Asian basil, mint, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, green beans and green pepper, this sweet and salty adventure also packs a spice-filled kick to the taste buds with ample red chilis.
At sit-down eateries, do not be surprised if the meat is not served nearly raw. Most places opt to grill the thin slices, in an effort to satisfy the populous. If you would like it more original, more bloody, just let them know. You might even gain the locals’ respects, you knowledgable traveler, you!
Nom banh chok: Khmer noodles
This is light, airy, enjoyable, delicate. Seemingly simplistic, Nom banh Chok consists of rice noodles swirled in a thin, green, fish-based curry broth. This too is an inconspicuous breakfast food, sold by mostly women carrying baskets from poles, laid over their backs. Not so simplistic is the intricate blend of spices and herbs that infuse the dish to make it as rich as it is approachable.
Lemongrass, turmeric root and kaffir lime seem to be the powerful trio; the meld around the subtly existent mint leaves and banana flower. Leafy greens are heaped to the side with bean sprouts, green beans, and cucumber. It is a fresh start to a new day.