Cambodian cuisine emphasises simplicity and freshness balanced with contrasting flavours and textures. Typically a meal includes three or four separate dishes that together create sweet, sour, salty, and bitter flavours. Widespread poverty in the 1970s saw Cambodians eating just about anything—if it moved, they ate it—so there are many interesting dishes like sautéed grasshoppers, deep fried tarantulas, and stuffed frogs for the adventurous-spirited. More palatable, perhaps, are dishes like fried noodles, soups, stir fries, salads, and curries, and of course rice, which is Cambodia's staple food. Dishes are flavoured with turmeric, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, and kaffir lime leaves.
Prahok is used in many Cambodian dishes. This fish paste has a pungent flavour that is an acquired taste to the Western palate and adds a salty tang to the dish. The flavour of this paste is what distinguishes Cambodian cuisine from its neighbours. It can be prepared a variety of ways, such as fried or mixed with meat or chilli. It is also eaten as a dip, covered with banana leaves and cooked under a fire, or used in soups or stir-fried dishes.
This popular Cambodian dish is a curried coconut milk dish that is similar to that found in Thailand, but less spicy. The biggest difference between amok in Cambodia and that found in Thailand or Vietnam is its use of the local herb slok ngor, which adds a distinctly bitter taste. Amok is made with chicken, fish, or shrimp and vegetables, and is served with rice. In some upscale restaurants it is steamed in a banana leaf and served as a mousse rather than a curry.
This healthy, sweet and sour soup is more like a curry than a soup. It blends the flavours of fried peanuts, lemongrass, and saffron and is decorated with colourful chilli flakes for a fulfilling, savoury dish.
Pork kebabs, noodles, corn cakes, deep fried spiders, white duck foetus eggs—street food in Cambodia ranges from the mouth watering to the stomach turning to the truly bizarre. Whatever your palate can handle, street food is common throughout the country and is remarkably inexpensive. Make sure to only order street food from vendors whose food is clean and fresh, as well as cooked right in front of you.
Nom Banh Chok
This beloved Cambodian street food is typically eaten for breakfast. It is sold by women carrying baskets of the ingredients hanging from a pole balanced on their shoulders. The noodles are made from pounded rice topped with a fish-based green curry infused with lemongrass, turmeric, and kaffir lime leaves. Then a sprinkling of mint leaves, bean sprouts, cucumbers, green beans, and banana flowers are added for a deliciously fresh crunchiness.
Fried noodles are a cheap and tasty street food available from noodle sellers all over Cambodia. There are numerous options for how to eat your friend noodles: instant noodles from ramen packages, short, thick rice noodles, or soft, yellow egg noodles. The noodles are flash stir-fried with fish sauce, soy sauce, beef, and greens, then an egg is fried with the mixture. Try it with the traditional mild, sweet chilli sauce.
For something a little Western, with a Cambodian twist, try num pang. These baguettes are a lasting impression from the French colonisation of Cambodia and are filled with both Eastern and Western ingredients. Sample the sandwiches with pâté, butter, homemade mayonnaise, a spicy red chilli paste, pork meat, pickled green papaya, and carrot. For a true Cambodian flavour, sprinkle a bit of soy sauce and fish sauce over the entire concoction.
Overall, Cambodia is an extremely affordable country, even compared to neighbouring inexpensive countries like Thailand or Vietnam. However, the cost of a holiday in Cambodia can really be as much or as little as you want it to be, depending on your taste and travel comforts. You can survive on 10 US Dollars a day, or live it up on 25 US Dollars a day. You can pay as little as one to two US Dollars for street food, 10 US Dollars at sit-down restaurants, or up to 50 US Dollars at upscale restaurants. It costs about .50 cents for a kilo of rice, one to two US Dollars for a short ride in motorcycle tuk tuks (a type of taxi), and anywhere from two US Dollars to 100 US Dollars for accommodations.