Cambodian food marks a subtle combination of strong flavors and interesting spices. It is common knowledge that the Cambodian food is a distant cousin of Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese cuisines. However, not many would be aware of the fact that the inhabitants like to ensure the presence of sweet, sour, salty and bitter items in every item.
If we explore the tasty history of Cambodian food, we’d find that Khmer cuisines were unanimously considered to be superior to their Thai counterparts. It is ironical that very few Cambodians are aware about the cooking processed followed by Khmer connoisseurs as most of them were murdered during Khmer Rogue’s regime.
Cambodian cuisine draws inspiration not only from Thai, Vietnamese and Indian civilizations, but also from France mainly because it belonged to the ‘French Indochina’. In fact, the French bread or ‘Baguette’ has almost become like national bread. Similarly, the use of cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and fennel was borrowed from the Indians and lent a Cambodian touch by mixing local seasonings like garlic, lemon grass, lime leaves, galangal and shallots. Meanwhile the Chinese left their influence by way of rice noodles. They are also credited with the introduction of a beef noodle soup known as ‘kuytheav’.
One of the most popular food items of Cambodia is the ‘Prohoc’, which may be quite repulsive to foreigners. This is because it is made from rotten fish that is fermented until it becomes a paste. It is subsequently eaten with rice. To the Cambodians, even a normal cheese must taste like a paste of rotten fish. Also, coconut milk is extensively used in Prohoc to provide a distinctive flavor.
Other popular Cambodians cuisines include Babar wherein rice porridge is served with pork or chicken; Amok which comprises of fish and thick coconut milk; Banh chiao wherein yellowish crepe is filled with meat and bean sprouts; and Nom Banhchok, which is a kind of noodles that is served with lemon grass and fish.
Chicken and beef are generally grilled, stewed or fried whereas pork is used to make sweet sausages. Meanwhile duck is roasted in a typical Chinese manner, and is used primarily during festivals. Cambodians are also very fond of eating sweet desserts made from rice and fruit.
Another noteworthy feature about Cambodian food is the wide-ranging popularity of betel nuts which render a dark-reddish tinge to the teeth. Dark teeth are considered beautiful by local inhabitants.