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|Culture of Cambodia|
Cambodian cuisine is an umbrella term for the cuisines of all ethnic groups in Cambodia, whereas Khmer cuisine (Khmer: សិល្បៈធ្វើម្ហូបខ្មែរ; lit. 'Khmer culinary art') 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, while the peasant food is made from simpler and more accessible ingredients.
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 developed during the Khmer Empire allowed the Khmer to harvest rice and other crops three to four times a year. According to the International Rice Research Institute, there are approximately 2,000 rice varieties indigenous to Cambodia bred 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. Many spices found in the Khmer cuisine were introduced by the Indian merchants around the 2nd century. The Indian influence on cuisine among other aspects of Khmer culture was already noted by a Chinese visitor around 400 AD. The trace of Indianization can be seen in the coconut-based curries (ការី, kari), as well as boiled red and white sweets. The Chinese began arriving in Cambodia in the 13th century, bringing their cuisine, from which Cambodian cuisine adopted an extensive use of noodles, for example.
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 kaffir 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.
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.
With Vietnamese and Lao cuisine it shares the French influence as Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were all part of the French Indochina. 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, while the French introduced pâté, salads, wine, coffee, asparagus and baguettes. 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, but less sweet, sourer and more citrusy than South Vietnamese dishes.
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, starvation and refugee crisis 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).
With the fracturing of the Khmer society in recent years, like many of its cultural treasures, the finest of the traditional cuisine of Cambodia – both simple and elaborate – stands to be lost forever. Most of the people who cared deeply about food have been killed, have fled the country or have died of old age. At this point, I wouldn't know where to begin to look for the old women who used to guard the secrets of the best spice mixes for curry, preserving them for future generations to enjoy. I assume that these women are all gone.— Longteine de Monteiro, "The Elephant Walk Cookbook" (1998)
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. In 2004 Malis, the first Cambodian fine dining restaurant in Phnom Penh, was opened. Since the early 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 with and modernizing traditional Cambodian dishes. 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 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 ranked 5th in the America's Best New Restaurants list by the food magazine Bon Appétit.
In Khmer, a distinction is made between fermented seafood depending on its consistency and the ingredient. Mam (មាំ) is the general term for seafood fermented with a special technique and usually includes more solid pieces of the fermented ingredient, whereas prahok (ប្រហុក, prâhŏk) and kapi (កាពិ, kapĭ) have more homogenous consistency than mam.
Mam is prepared by adding a mixture of salt, roasted red sticky rice and palm sugar to snakehead fillets and fermenting for more than a year. The palm sugar and rice give mam an earthier and sweeter flavour and a reddish tone. Prahok, on the other hand, can either be made from small fish with all the bones and less salt called prahok chhoeung or large deboned fish and more salt called prahok sach (ប្រហុកសាច់, prâhŏk săch), 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. Roe can be removed from the fish, cleaned, drained, and fermented separately. Lastly, kapi 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.
Fermented roe (ពងត្រី, pông trei) are primarily eaten with steamed eggs, omelettes and other hen or duck egg dishes. Prahok is used as flavouring for almost every Khmer dish, mixed with rice or served as a dipping sauce (ទឹកជ្រលក់, tœ̆k chrôluŏk). It 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). Kapi is often mixed with sugar, garlic, lime juice, chilli and crushed peanuts and used as a dipping sauce for vegetables, fruit, meat and fish.
Other sauces used in the Cambodian cuisine include fish sauce (ទឹកត្រី, tœ̆k trei), oyster sauce (ទឹកប្រេងខ្យង, tœ̆k préng khyâng), soy sauce (ទឹកស៊ីអ៊ីវ, tœ̆k si-iv; តៅអ៊ីវ, tau iv; សាអ៊ីវ, sa-iv or ស៊ីអ៊ីវ, si-iv), tamarind sauce (ទឹកអម្ពិល, tœ̆k âmpĭl) and hoisin sauce (ទឹកសៀង. Fish sauce is an important ingredient in Khmer cooking, used to add saltiness to soups and noodle dishes, marinating meats or as a dipping sauce for fish. Oyster sauce was introduced by Chinese immigrants and has become a common ingredient in Cambodian 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. Soy sauce is also a common ingredient and condiment, mixed with garlic or aged radish to be eaten with primarily high protein dishes, as well as used to add saltiness when fish sauce is not used. Tamarind sauce sauce made from tamarind paste mixed with fish sauce, garlic, chilli peppers, lime juice, palm sugar, and vinegar. Hoisin sauce is used to marinate grilled meat and especially for kuyteav or soups with hand pulled noodles.
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 with different uses. 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 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, Kampong 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.
- 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 [krɨəŋ] – '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) each with different uses.
Cambodian cuisine consists heavily of leaf vegetables. 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. Some vegetables can also be used for sweet dishes, for example, shallots are sometimes added to yellow bean custard num bak keng (នំបាក់កែង) for additional flavour.
- 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, rambutan, guava, longan and tamarind.
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. Sun-dried limes boiled in sugar and salt water are used in chicken and duck soups, sauces with fish, as well as beverages.
- 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 and 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. In Siem Reap spicy or sweet and savoury sausages are made by filling spiced ground pork or beef into pork intestines and eaten with steamed white rice, congee or baguettes. 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)
- Crab meat (សាច់ក្ដាម, săch kdaam)
- Cockles (ងាវ, ngiəw)
- 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 (pork); ខ្វាគោ, săch krɑɑk (beef))
- Snails (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.
In Cambodia, meals are usually freshly prepared three times a day (for breakfast, lunch and dinner), although in rural areas only breakfast and dinner may be eaten. Due to a general lack of refrigeration, leftovers are usually discarded. A typical Cambodian breakfast consists of rice porridge with dried salted fish, rice with dried salted fish and vegetables, baguette with condensed milk or rice/egg noodles with meat and leaf vegetables. For lunch and dinner, Cambodians usually eat steamed rice, soup with meat (fish, pork, chicken or beef) and leaf vegetables, fried fish or other meat and fruit.
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 number of side dishes are usually served alongside the main 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.
Khmer food is traditionally eaten with hands, but nowadays spoons, forks and chopsticks are also used for some dishes. Knives are rarely used as the majority of Cambodian food is already cut into bite-sized pieces. Forks and spoons were introduced by the French and are used for eating rice and/or soup-based dishes, whereas chopsticks were introduced by the Chinese and are used only for eating noodle dishes.
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.
- Banh sung (បាញ់ស៊ុង, bɑɲ song)
- Cambodian vermicelli with coconut milk, fish sauce, pork ham, and assorted mint and vegetables. A common lunch snack within the markets in Southern Cambodia. It is similar to Vietnamese bánh tằm bì.
- Dumpling noodle soup (មីគាវ, mii kiəv)
- A Cambodian rendition of the Chinese wonton noodles. The broth is clear topped with garlic chives and the dumplings are filled with seasoned minced pork and shrimp. Variations are often served with wheat vermicelli, a mixture of rice-wheat noodles or flat rice noodles (គុយទាវមីគាវ, kŭytéav mii kiəv).
- Kuyteav (គុយទាវ, kŭytéav)
- A popular Chinese Cambodian breakfast rice vermicelli soup with meat (chicken, beef or pork) garnished with bean sprouts, chopped scallions, chopped coriander, fish sauce, lime, and sriracha. It can either be served with all the garnish in the soup or the soup on the side. There are many regional variations of kuyteav. In the Phnom Penh version (kuyteav Phnom Penh) pig blood, liver and heart are added, while near Mekong prawns and fish cakes are included. In modern versions of kuyteav pork is sometimes replaced with beef, seafood or chicken. It is similar to Vietnamese hủ tiếu, Malaysian and Singaporean kway teow and Thai kuai tiao (ก๋วยเตี๋ยว).
- Kuyteav khor ko (គុយទាវខគោ)
- A rice noodle dish created from the stewed/braised beef combined with flat rice noodles. It features French influences including potatoes and carrots topped off with chives and coriander. It is eaten with bread as well. A similar dish exists in Vietnam called hủ tiếu bò kho.
- Num banh chok (នំបញ្ចុក)
- A popular Cambodian breakfast soup, consisting of fermented rice noodles with a fish gravy made from prahok and yellow kroeung topped off with fresh mint leaves, bean sprouts, green beans, banana flowers, cucumbers and other greens. There is also a red curry version usually reserved for ceremonial occasions and wedding festivities.
- Num banh chok samlar kari (នំបញ្ចុកសម្លការី)
- A rice noodle dish eaten with a Khmer curry soup. The curry may be yellow (turmeric soup base) or red (chilli curry soup base) depending on the type of soup created and generally include chicken (including legs) or beef, potatoes, onions, and carrots.
- Num banh chok samlar namya (នំបញ្ចុកសម្លណាំយ៉ា)
- A rice noodle dish featuring a Thai sour soup base (Thai: นำ้ยา, RTGS: nam-ya) popular during festivals and family gatherings. It features the same vegetables and herbs in num banh chok teuk prahok (នំបញ្ចុកទឹកប្រហុក) although the base is created with Thai green curry paste.
- Num banh chok Kampot (នំបញ្ចុកកំពត)
- A speciality of Kampot featuring a cold rice noodle salad rather than a soup base. It features cuts of spring rolls, a variety of herbs, ground nuts, pork, and fish sauce.
- Num banh chok teuk mrech (នំបញ្ចុកទឹកម្ហេច)
- A speciality soup of Kampot that features a clear fish broth (that does not feature the use of prahok) cooked with chives and vegetables. It is a regional speciality not found in Phnom Penh and other parts of Cambodia where Khmer and Vietnamese varieties of num banh chok are eaten.
- Num banh chok samlar yuon
- A rice noodle soup originating from the Vietnamese Cambodians living in the urban areas of Cambodia. It is most similar to Vietnamese bún riêu featuring a red blood pork soup base and balls of minced crab meat. It also features more variety of herbs and vegetables not used in Vietnam.
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.
- Caramelized pork and eggs (ខសាច់ជ្រូក, khor săch chruk)
- Braised pork and egg stew flavoured in caramelized palm sugar, fish sauce, and Kampot black pepper. It may contain tofu or bamboo shoots and often substitutes quail eggs for chicken eggs. A typical Khmer Krom dish.
- Curry soup (សម្លការី, samlar kari)
- An Indian-influenced Cambodian soup. It is a traditional wedding and celebration dish, featuring coconut chicken curry gently spiced with paprika, with a soup-like consistency, often cooked with sweet potatoes, and julienned onion. The soup is also used as a dipping sauce for fresh baguettes, while num banh chok samlar kari is often served for breakfast the next day, featuring the same ingredients to make num banh chok but using the samlar kari broth instead of the traditional turmeric and fish-based broth that goes into making num banh chok.
- Congee (បបរ, babar)
- A Cambodian dish of Chinese origin. A type of white rice porridge with or without meat (chicken, pork, fish, dried fish, seafood, snails, or frog legs) served with a wide array of condiments (dried fish floss, pickled vegetables, fried garlic, fish sauce, chilli flakes, chilli oil, and fresh herbs).
- Hot pot (ឆ្នាំងភ្លើង, chnang phləəng – 'pot fire')
- The most common form of hot pot in Cambodia contains shared meat and assorted vegetables cooked in a heated pot with a clear broth. There are different hot pot variations with other names and mixed influences from China. Chap chai soup eaten with hand pulled noodles or wheat vermicelli is called chhnang dei, whereas a banquet-style hot pot for dipping beef, shrimp, spinach, dill, napa cabbage, rice noodles and mushrooms is called yao hon (យ៉ៅហន, yav hɑɑn). It differs from the standard Cambodian hot pot or other Asian hot pots in that it features a tangy coconut broth rather than a clear broth. Chhnang phnom plerng or volcano hot pot is a Cambodian-style barbecue similar to Lao and Thai counterparts. It is served on a hot pot attached to a grill that allows meat to cook and release juices into the broth, making the soup tastier over time.
- Koh Kong coconut-pineapple curry (សម្លខ្ទិះកោះកុង, samlar khtih Koh Kong)
- A Koh Kong speciality dish made out of red kroeung, coconut cream, palm sugar and fish sauce with pieces of pineapple, aubergine, and shallots. Garnished with coriander and basil and eaten with steamed rice.
- Pickled lime soup with chicken (ស្ងោរមាន់ង៉ាំង៉ូវ, sngao mŏən ngamngəw)
- A chicken and vegetable soup flavoured with pickled limes or lemons.
- Samlar machu (សម្លម្ជូរ)
- An entire class of samlar, whereby the dominant flavour is an aromatic, citrusy tartness, and there are many different versions. Almost every town or province has its own unique version of samlar machu including samlar machu kroeung (featuring kroeung, turmeric, water morning glory, coriander, stewed beef ribs and tripe), samlar machu Khmer Krom (featuring tomato, pineapple, catfish, lotus rhizome and holy basil) and samlar machu Siem Reap (containing bamboo shoots and tiny freshwater shrimps). The sourness and citrus flavour can come from prahok, tamarind, lemongrass, kaffir lime, lime juice, or herbs such as lemon basil. It is similar to the Vietnamese sour soup canh chua.
- Samlar korko (សម្លកកូរ)
- Traditional Cambodian stirring pot soup, one of Cambodia's national dishes. It consists of green kroeung, prahok, roasted ground rice, catfish, pork or chicken, vegetables, fruits and herbs. The soup base is created from a variety of vegetables that reflect the environment of rural Cambodia as well as the use of prahok to create a tangy salty taste.
- Samlar prahal (សម្លប្រហើរ)
- A fish soup flavoured with prahok and a kroeung made from lemongrass, turmeric, fingerroot and garlic. The primary vegetables included in the stew are kabocha, taro and various mushrooms. Other local vegetables are added according to taste and availability.
- Saraman curry (ការីសារ៉ាម៉ាន់, kari saraman)
- A Cambodian (Cham) beef curry. It is similar to Thai Massaman curry and Malaysian Beef rendang.
- A braised beef stew similar to khor with the exception that it doesn't feature eggs and makes extensive use of dark soy sauce. The dish is also sweeter and saltier than khor. This dish originates from South Chinese migrants and is similar to hongshao rou.
Stir-fried and rice dishes
- Bay sach chruk (បាយសាច់ជ្រូកោ, bai săch chruk – 'pork rice')
- A common breakfast street food featuring rice, char siu barbecue pork, egg (scrambled, steamed, fried, or caramelized), chive soup, chrok (pickled vegetables) or preserved radish, and soy sauce or fish sauce condiments.
- Beef lok lak (ឡុកឡាក់សាច់គោ, loklak săch koo)
- A beef dish of French Indochinese origin. It contains stir-fried marinated cubed beef with fresh red onions, served on a bed of lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes and dipped in a sauce of lime juice, sea salt and Kampot black pepper. Regional variants include lok lak Americain distinguished by the addition of French fries instead of steamed rice and a fried egg.
- Cantonese noodles (មីកាតាំង, mii kaatang)
- A Cantonese Cambodian dish derived from the Cantonese chow fun. It is made by stir-frying flat rice noodles in soy sauce and oyster sauce with eggs, carrots, Chinese kale, and marinated meat (pork, beef, chicken, shrimps or mixed seafood), and sometimes topped off with a tapioca or corn starch gravy. The Cambodian-style Cantoneese noodles are related to Thai pad see ew and rat na and Lao lard na.
- Cambodian-style barbecue pork (សាច់ជ្រូកសាសីុវ, săch chruk sa səyv)
- A Cambodian rendition of the Chinese char siu barbecue pork that is often added to baguettes or eaten with rice for breakfast.
- Cambodian-style roast pork (សាច់ជ្រូកខ្វៃ, săch chruk kvɑy)
- A Cambodian rendition of the Chinese siu yuk roast pork that is usually eaten with white rice, prahok or shrimp paste, and raw vegetables.
- Chha kh'nhei (ឆាខ្ញី – 'stir-fried ginger')
- A spicy stir fry of meat, usually chicken, eel or frog flavoured with julienned gingerroot, Kampot black pepper, garlic, soy and sometimes fresh jalapeños or fresh peppers, for extra heat.
- Chicken rice (បាយមាន់ញី, bay mŏən)
- A Cambodian street food originating from Hokkien and Hainanese immigrants in the 17th century. It is similar to Malaysian/Singaporean Hainanese chicken rice with the exception of kreoung being mixed with the rice before steaming.
- Green Kampot pepper crab (ក្តាមឆាម្រេចខ្ជី, kdam cha mrich khchei)
- A famous seafood dish from the coastal provinces of Cambodia. Crabs are stir-fried in a savoury sauce with garlic, spring onions and green Kampot peppercorns. A variation of this dish adds milk, eggs, or curry powder.
- Fried rice (បាយឆា, bay cha)
- A Cambodian version of the Chinese fried rice which includes pork, sausages, eggs, garlic, soy sauce, and herbs. There are numerous variations of the dish in Cambodia, including shrimp fried rice (បាយឆាកាពិ, bay cha kapĭ) made with shrimps and shrimp paste.
- Kroeung fishcakes (ប្រហិតត្រីគ្រឿង, prohet trei krœăng)
- Whitefish fillets mixed with kreoung and pounded in a mortar and pestle. The mix is shaped into patties or meatballs and deep-fried. They are eaten with a sauce made out of Kampot black peppers mixed with lime juice.
- Kola noodles (មីកុឡា, mii kola)
- A vegetarian noodle dish created by the Kola people in the Pailin Province. Boiled rice vermicelli is stir-fried in soy sauce and served with boiled eggs, blanched bean sprouts, grated pickles (papaya, cucumbers and carrots) garnished with roasted peanuts and herbs. Non-vegetarian versions of this dish contain dried shrimp and fish sauce.
- Pak lov (ផាក់ឡូវ, pak ḷūv)
- A dish of caramelized/braised organs, both a home dish and popular street food.
- Stir-fried flat rice noodles (ឆាគុយទាវ, cha kŭytéav)
- A Cambodian version of a stir-fried flat rice noodle dish that is a speciality of the southern regions of Cambodia. It often features dark and sweet soy sauce and an assortment of meats. It is topped with sautéed scallions, egg, pork ham, and cuts of spring rolls.
- Stir-fried silver needle noodles (លតឆា, lot chaa)
- A Chinese Cambodian dish. Silver needle noodles stir-fried in fish sauce, soy sauce and palm sugar, with garlic, bean sprouts and scallions or chives, served with a fried egg.
- Stir-fried morning glory (ខាត់ណាឆាប្រេងា, khat naa chaa preeng)
- A vegetable dish often eaten for dinner. The water morning glory is stir-fried in oil, with garlic, red peppers, and minced pork, fermented soybeans, and soy sauce.
- Stir-fried wheat vermicelli (ឆាមីសួ, cha mee sua)
- Wheat vermicelli stir-fried with garlic, vegetables, mushrooms, and oyster, fish, and soy sauce. The dish is most commonly made for religious festivals such as Pchum Ben, or during temple festivals as a food offering to monks.
- Stir-fried hand-pulled noodles (មីឆា, mee cha)
- Hand-pulled noodles stir-fried with beef and vegetables, and topped with an egg and gravy. A common street food.
Salads, rolls, and steamed foods
- Banh hoi (បាញ់ហយ)
- Wheat vermicelli served in a bowl with assorted vegetables, stir-fried ground pork in soy sauce, oyster sauce, and fish sauce, and topped off with fish sauce and sweet coconut milk. Other variations include pork ham and grilled meat. Variations of this dish exist all over Southeast Asia.
- Fish amok (អាម៉ុកត្រី, amŏk trei)
- A Khmer steamed fish curry (amok) with a mousse-like consistency, one of Cambodia's national dishes. Goby fish, snakehead fish or catfish fillets are rubbed with kroeung mixed with coconut cream or coconut milk and eggs and steamed in a banana leaf container with great morinda leaves at the bottom for 20 to 30 minutes. Served hot and eaten with steamed rice.
- Fresh spring rolls (ណែម, naem chao – 'raw rice paper')
- A salad spring rolls with assorted vegetables and meats wrapped like a spring roll in edible rice paper (num naem chhao). Its origin is in Vietnam.
- Fried spring rolls (ចៃយ៉, chai yor or ណែមចៀន, naem chien)
- A Cambodian version of the Chinese fried spring rolls. Despite originating in the Chinese Cambodian community, nowadays fried spring rolls have spread throughout the country. They are different from Chinese spring rolls with their filling often not being cooked before frying, giving the Cambodian spring rolls a lighter flavour. In addition to that, fish sauce is usually used in the filling, instead of oyster or soy sauce, and Cambodian spring rolls, if not reheated, are fried only once.
- Green papaya salad (បុកល្ហុង, bok l'hong)
- A salad from garlic, bird's eye chili peppers, dried shrimps, pickled crab, papaya, green beans and tomatoes pounded in a mortar and pestle and mixed with Asian basil, coriander or long coriander and kaffir lime leaves, as well as a savory dressing of lime juice and fish sauce, and garnished with peanuts. A variety of green papaya salad that uses fermented seafood (usually shrimp paste) is called mam l'hong (មាំល្ហុង).
- Num por pia (នុំពពៀ, num pɔpəə)
- A dessert in which the wrapper originates from Chinese popiah. Porpear can serve as a wrapper for dessert and for assorted meats; many various dishes exist.
- Nhoam (ញាំ)
- The collective term for salad dishes where the meat is cooked in a wok or grilled before mixing with vegetables, herbs, dressing and other ingredients.
- Pleah sach ko (ភ្លាសាច់គោ)
- Lime and prahok-cured beef salad, sometimes also including beef tripe, tossed with thinly sliced purple Asian shallots, finely shaved radish, crushed roasted peanuts and fresh herbs such as mint and basil. Sometimes known as Cambodian beef ceviche, it is very popular at weddings and for special occasions.
- Rice noodle rolls (គុយទាវកាត់, kŭytéav kat – 'cut flat rice noodles')
- A dish similar to Chinese cheong fun. Minced pork is added to a steamed rice flour mixture, then it is rolled up and cut into smaller pieces. It is served with assorted vegetables, cut spring rolls, nuts, fish sauce, and pork ham. It is a speciality in the Phnom Penh and Ta Khmao areas.
- Cambodian doughnuts (នំកង, num kong – 'bracelet cake')
- Rice flour pastries glazed with palm sugar and garnished with sesame seeds. Sold in markets and usually eaten as a to-go breakfast food.
- Chive cakes (នំកាឆាយវៃ, num ka'chai)
- A Cambodian street food snack of Chinese origin. It is a rice dumpling combined with chives and fried on a hot surface resembling a thin scallion pancake. In Cambodia, the cake is eaten in combination with other dishes to add texture or with sweet fish sauce.
- Coconut-rice crêpes (បាញ់ឆែវ, num banh chao)
- Crêpes made from coconut milk, rice flour and turmeric. Eaten with ground pork, lettuce leaves, carrot-chilli sauce and roasted peanuts.
- Coconut pancakes (នំគ្រក់, num krok)
- A street food snack made from a mixture of coconut milk, rice flour and scallions cooked on a cast iron griddle with half-spherical moulds.
- Coconut waffles (នំពុម្ព, num poum)
- Waffles made from rice flour and coconut milk originating in the French Indochina period.
- Egg cakes (នុំពងៃ, num pɔɔng)
- An Asian-styled doughnut originating in China. The dough is deep-fried and flaked with milk.
- Mung bean rice cakes (នំពពាយ, num por peay)
- Boiled thin long rolls of glutinous rice dough filled with a mixture of mung beans and coconut milk, topped off with coconut shavings, and white sesame seeds.
- Num pang (នំបុ័ង – 'bread')
- A baguette with braised beef, chicken curry, raw and pickled vegetables as well as pâté, butter, and mayonnaise. It is similar to Vietnamese bánh mì and Lao khao jee pâté.
- Num pang ang prai m'tes (meaning grilled salty spicy bread)
- Bread is seasoned with butter, hot sauce, and salt and grilled continuously. The dish may be served by cutting the bread into square bite-size pieces and served with chicken floss, pork ham, mayonnaise, hot sauce, and sautéed or grilled spring onions. This is also a very popular street food in Vietnam where it is called bánh mì khơme (Khmer bread) or bánh mì nướng muối ới (grilled salty spicy bread).
- Num pia (នំពារ, num piə)
- A Chinese Cambodian cake popular during the holidays. It is a speciality in the Siem Reap, Kampot, Phnom Penh, and Ta Khmau areas, and unique given the special red stamp on the top of the cake.
- Num kaov/a'kaov
- A steamed cupcake made from rice flour combined with palm sugar to create white (coconut), yellow (palm sugar), and pandan (green) variations. This is a popular dessert and street snack as well as being served during traditional weddings.
- Pandan rice cakes (នំបាញ់ឌុក, num banh duc)
- A dessert made with pandan, rice flour and tapioca.
- Pandan tapioca balls (saku dom)
- Sweet pearl sago/tapioca balls flavoured with pandan leaves and pinches of salt.
- Palm sugar rice cakes (នំផ្លែអាយ, num ple ay)
- A tapioca dessert in different colours with a palm sugar filling, topped with coconut shavings. It is a traditional dessert featured in weddings alongside husband and wife cake, and pandan desserts. The dessert is humorously nicknamed "husband killer" because of how easy it is to choke on when consumed.
- Pumpkin-coconut custard (សង់ខ្យាល្ពៅ, sankya lapov)
- A dessert made of steamed pumpkin filled with coconut flan. The coconut flan is also often added to Cambodian pudding desserts called cha houy teuk.
- 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.
- Spring onion bread (នំប៉័ងចិន, num pang chen – 'Chinese bread')
- A type of bread combining Chinese and French influences. It is flat and baked and fried simultaneously rather than simply being fried like its Chinese counterpart.
- Steamed layer cakes (នំច័ក្កចន័, num chak chan)
- A steamed rice cake made out of layers of pandan and coconut milk. It is often featured in the Cambodian wedding banquet. Similar to Vietnamese bánh da lợn, Thai khanom chan and Indonesian kue lapis.
- Sticky rice in bamboo (ក្រឡាន, kralan)
- A cake made by roasting a mixture of glutinous rice, black-eyed peas or beans, coconut milk, grated coconut and palm sugar in a bamboo pole over a fire. It is often prepared and eaten at Chinese and Khmer New Year. According to a legend, kralan were used as military rations in the Khmer Empire. Thma Krae village in Kratie Province and Samrong Khnong village in Battambang Province have become well known for its kralan.
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).
- Mung bean dumplings (បាញ់ចានឿក, banh chaneouk)
- Steamed glutinous rice or sago dumplings with mung bean filling served in a ginger and coconut sauce. Similar to Chinese tong sui.
- Sticky rice with sesame seeds (នំទ្រាប, num treap)
- A slightly hardened glutinous rice and coconut dessert topped off with roasted sesame seeds.
- 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. The cylinder shape represents a phallus, symbolizing Shiva, the masculine principle of God, while the pyramid shape symbolizes the Shakti, the feminine principle of God. 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).
- Banana coconut tapioca pudding (ចេកខ្ទិះ, chek k'tis)
- A Khmer porridge made out of sago or tapioca pearls, slices of banana, coconut milk and palm sugar and garnished with grated coconut and toasted white sesame seeds.
- Grass jelly (ចាហ៊ួយខ្មៅ, cha huoy khmaw)
- Often eaten with soybean milk in a bowl during a hot day because of its cooling properties.
- Green bean dessert (បបរសណ្តែកខៀវ, bang'aem babor sandaek khiev)
- One of the most popular desserts in Cambodia made from tapioca, mung beans, sugar, and coconut milk and usually eaten after lunch or after work in the evening.
- Longan pudding (បបរមៀន, bɑbɑɑ miən)
- A pudding made out of coconut milk, palm sugar and tapioca topped with fresh longan.
- Lotus seed and longan pudding (babor skor krop phka chhuk mien)
- A watery sugar-based dessert that can be served cold or warm. It features longan and lotus seeds and can also be served as a drink.
- Mung bean pudding (បបរសណ្តែកខៀវ, bɑbɑɑ sɑɑ tek khiəw)
- A dessert of Chinese origin that is very popular in the Chinese diaspora across Southeast Asian countries. It is made of split mung beans, palm sugar, flour and coconut milk. Chinese Cambodians prefer this bean pudding with fried breadsticks (ឆាខ្វៃ, cha kway).
- 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.
- Pandan coconut jelly (សារាយខ្ទិះ, sarai k'tis)
- A dessert with layers of pandan and coconut agar jelly.
- Red lotus seed jelly (tur tim krop)
- A coconut milk-based dessert that is very popular during hot weather. The small reddish/pinkish jewels are water chestnut covered with tapioca, served with sweetened coconut milk and shaved ice. Shredded jackfruit and jellied coconut flesh can also be added to this dessert. Jellied coconut flesh occurs when the coconut lacks an enzyme that turns its flesh into normal coconut flesh. The flesh continues to develop in the jelly state. Tur tim in Khmer means either "ruby" or "pomegranate". Similar to Thai thapthim krop.
- Sweet corn pudding (បបរស្ករពោត, babor skor bot)
- A corn-based pudding featuring sweet rice and coconut milk.
- 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.
According to the Chinese diplomat Zhou Daguan, five fermented alcoholic beverages were produced in the late-13th century Khmer Empire: mead, pengyasi made from the leaves of an unidentified plant, baolengjiao made from rice hulls and rice leftovers, "sugar-shine wine" made from sugar and palm starch wine made from the starch of the leaves of a palm growing on the riverbank.
Nowadays, the most popular alcoholic beverage is beer (ប៊ីយេរ, biiyɛɛ). The first domestically brewed beer was produced in the 1930s during the French Indochina period by the Brasseries & Glacières de L'Indochine company in Phnom Penh. In 1995 the annual beer consumption per capita was only around two liters, but by 2004 it began to rise significantly and in 2010 beer overtook spirits as the most popular alcoholic beverage in Cambodia. Currently, the four biggest beer producers in Cambodia are the Cambrew Brewery, Cambodia Brewery, Khmer Brewery and Kingdom Breweries. Recently there has also been a quickly growing craft beer scene with 12 brewpubs or microbreweries operating in Cambodia in 2019.
A popular traditional alcoholic beverage is rice wine (ស្រាស, sraah). It is produced by fermenting boiled and dried rice with a natural fermentation starter (dom bai) for at least 24 hours and distilling the resulting mixture. Modern distillation methods were introduced during the French Indochina period. Occasionally, there have been instances of methanol poisoning from low quality home-made rice wine. Rice wine can also be infused with various herbs, roots, bark and insects to create medicinal rice wines (srah tinum). A popular drink infused with deer antlers and different herbs is the Special Muscle Wine manufactured since 1968 by Lao Hang Heng Wine. The company also produces popular Golden Muscle Liquor and Wrestler Red Wine, whereas Sombai manufactures a line of premium infused rice wines.
Another popular, albeit lower-prestige alcoholic beverage is palm wine (ទឹកត្នោតជូរ, tœ̆k tnaot cuu). It might have become popular during the French Indochina period as a cheap alternative to other wines. Palm wine is produced by fermenting Asian palmyra palm sap either through spontaneous fermentation by adding several plants to the sap and hanging the containers on trees or through the addition of a fermentation starter (ម៉ែទឹកត្នោតជូរ, mae tœ̆k tnaot cuu) made from fermented palm sap and various dried plant xylems and bark. A manufacturer in Pou Senchey District also produces sparkling palm wine.
In the Mondulkiri Province yellow passion fruit and purple passion fruit wine, as well as a blended yellow-purple passion fruit liquor is produced. Another less traditional drink is rum produced by Samai Distillery, Cambodia's first rum distillery, who even uses Kampot pepper in one of its products. In Battambang Chan Thai Choeung, Cambodia's first and only winery, has been commercially producing grape wine since 2005.
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. A 1960 Cambodian cookbook and culinary guide "The Culinary Art of Cambodia" by Princess Norodom Rasmi Sobbhana republished in May 2021 by Angkor Database was also included in the campaign.
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 Asia's 50 Best Restaurants in position No. 50, 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.
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Khmer food refers to the food cooked by Cambodia’s predominantly Khmer population, while Cambodian food takes in everything: Khmer food, as well as Chinese-Cambodian, Chinese, and the specialties of Cambodia’s Cham Muslims, such as Saraman curry, a cousin to Thailand’s Massaman curry.
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Cambodia is the country and therefore encompasses the ethnic majority, the Khmers, along with the Chinese, the Lao, the Cham, the Viet, the Samre, the Jarai. Cambodian food is a mix of all those cuisines. Khmer cuisine relates to a specific group without the capital idea of the influence of other groups.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cuisine of Cambodia.|
- Cambodia's Forgotten Food. 11 November 2018. The Food Programme. BBC Sounds
- Dunston, Lara (16 August 2017). Cambodian Food – Cooking with Fire, Foraging, Fermentation and Flowers. Grantourismo Travels.
- Dunston, Lara (20 August 2016). Dispelling Cambodian Cuisine Myths — It's Not 'Mild Thai'! Grantourismo Travels.
- Lees, Phil (18 August 2006). Why travelers dislike Khmer food. Phnomenon.
- Exploring Cambodian Food in Long Beach, CA with Phnom Penh Noodle Shack and Allen Prom. 21 January 2021. Eating America with India
- What A Royal Birthday Cake Looks Like. 30 August 2020. Cooking For The Crown. Real Royalty with Foxy Games
- Khmer Krom recipes
- Taste Cambodia. 18 July 2021. Visit Cambodia - Kingdom of Wonder. via YouTube.