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Traditional Cambodian Food - Dishes, Basic Facts, Origins

Traditional Food of Cambodia

Basic Facts:

· Rice is the core

· Lots of fish and sea products

· Meat is not that popular, and is mainly poultry

· Very spicy and with lots of fresh local veggies 

National food in Cambodia is similar, and at the same time is completely different from the tradition of the neighboring countries. It is possible to claim that the Cambodians eat everything! And this is not an exaggeration - in the course of the national cuisine here you can find fried with salt, pepper and garlic bugs and smaller-sized spiders, that are called "a-ping", fried grasshoppers and all sorts of bugs, raw meat of reptiles and their entrails, insect larvae and embryos of birds, sun-dried devilfish and fried birds (these could be any, even sparrows ), bamboo sprouts and greens of the water lilies, sea mollusks and shells, all kinds of crops (rice, corn, yam, taro, ficus and etc.). The dishes of the food in Cambodia also feature many wild fruits and locally grown vegetables. Widely used and popular in the national food in Cambodia are pickled and fermented vegetables and fruits, which are collected for pickling at different stages of their growth, which give the final product a completely phenomenal taste.

Rice is the Core

Traditional Food of CambodiaAlso, like for their neighbors, the basis of food in Cambodia is rice. It is present on the table anytime, anywhere and at any course of the day, most often rice serves as a garnish. Though it should be mentioned that Cambodian rice is cooked in a little bit different way than in Thailand or Vietnam, as local people use less spices and sauces, but prefer to have their rice with more vegetable oils (like oils of walnut or peanut, popular are also oils of coconut and palm tree and etc.). Rice is also usually served with lots of fresh greens. Everyday dish for Cambodians is fried rice "Bajic" with different protein filling and that comes with a lot of spices, local people prefer to eat it with a number of special sauces, as well as soy and rice served with pork or even rice with bananas.

Food in Cambodia - Pasta and Soups

Equally popular garnish in food in Cambodia are noodles and pasta of all kinds. The main dishes with those are soups with noodles, herbs, meat, fish, or a variety of seafood. It is widely used as an everyday dish and it most often considered as a dish for breakfast; you can order it in any local restaurant. But the main feature of it is a variety of options. Into the soup Cambodians without any care put everything that comes into their way – starting from dried vegetables to fish, frogs legs (a legacy of French colonization) and snails with eggs. Also everywhere in this country you can discover all kinds of noodle dishes, typical for South-East Asia are fried rice noodles that are usually served with fish sauce as well as hundreds of species of different color noodles served with spices. Milk and other common for us dairy products are almost never used in the cooking, but the cheeses are very good.  

Food in Cambodia - Meat

Meat is not that popular in food in Cambodia, but if you see a meat dish, the meat there is mainly poultry. On the other hand the fish and a variety of food from it take on the Cambodian table a very important place. One of the most popular soups in the country is prepared mainly from fish. Equally popular is baked fish with rice, fish curry that comes with a sauce made of coconut milk, steamed fish, fried fish, sour fish soup, fish stuffed with vegetables and other.

The French Origin

Traditional Food of Cambodia

The French influence in the Cambodian cuisine is also very well seen on the example of excellent variety of breads and rolls in food in Cambodia, which are baked in the early morning in small bakeries that are usually scattered around the locality. Be sure to visit one of those, as you will see the real morning of Cambodian city, when all the local people are already widely awake and hurrying to their daily works.

Food in Cambodia - Vegetables

Widely used in the local dishes are vegetables, but not as a basis for independent courses, but rather in combination with meat, poultry or fish. Vegetables as a Cambodian food are also popular for salads that are eaten both cold and hot, but always with some sauce. Local salads are quite original and interesting in their tastes - they are usually prepared with meat or fish with various greens (lettuce, iceberg salad, lemongrass, saffron, etc.) and vegetable oil. Often salad features fruits and fresh or pickled vegetables. The number of fresh fruits on the table in food in Cambodia is just beyond any descriptions. In addition to such well-known species of popular tropical fruits such as watermelon, bananas, pineapples, papayas and mangoes, be sure to try the more exotic local fruits as "durian" or "turain" (though the smell of those is just terrible!). The Traditional Food of Cambodia 2nd Partother very interestingly flavored and looking ones are guava, pomelo, rambutan, sapodilla, kamerin, mangosteen, longan and Jack Fruit (also known in local language as "Khanal"). As you can imagine therefore, local people prefer for the dessert a fruit salad, but except those you can be served a variety of fruit puddings, cakes, pies, cookies, all having fruit jams and dried fruits in them or self-made ice cream with different fruit syrups.

As you understand, all meals are very bright and nice-looking. So, don't forget to take your camera and portable photo printer to be able to make pictures of all these unusual dishes. And to be sure that all your devices have enough energy to work, you can use a portable solar charger to provide you by electricity in any place of the country. 

Soft and Alcoholic Drinks

The favorite soft drinks of the local people are "Samrong" (infusion of seeds of the samrong tree, therefore the name of the drink of this cambodia food comes from the name of the tree it is made of), sugarcane juice, the juice of the palm tree or coconut milk, soda with fresh lemon juice, and fresh juices or juice with ice-cream and syrup. The peculiar local drink "dtyuk-rolok", is produced from the fruit and egg yolks, that well quenches the thirst from the hot weather. Chinese green tea is also widely used all over the place (often it is not even included in the bill), but the coffee is usually not of a very good quality and local people would prefer to drink a glass of fresh fruit juice rather than a coffee, saying that vitamins can make you more awake than any caffeine. 


Local beer has an unusual taste, but it is very inexpensive and of a truly high quality. The best varieties are considered "Lao", "Angkor" and "Allen Delong" and imported "Tiger" and "Heineken". Also from more strong drinks for your choice are available local whiskeys, but they taste quite peculiar, and therefore are not that popular with tourists. In big cities like the capital of  Cambodia you can buy many kinds of imported alcoholic beverages, if you will feel tired of the local fruit liquors. Local people are not lovers of alcohol, especially very strong one; they make their own liquors out of fruits that are not very strong, but very tasty and sweet.

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