When I arrived in Cambodia I had no idea what to expect of the food. This is probably because there is a distinct lack of Cambodian cuisine in the West, which certainly cannot be said of the country’s more touristy neighbour – Vietnam. I’m certain as tourism in Cambodia continues to rise, Cambodian cuisine will find its way onto the Western food map. For the meantime I’d like to share this taste of Cambodia with you!
(All photos are taken by my lovely travel companion Sarah.)
Now I know what you’re thinking – who is that deranged looking person and what is she holding? Unfortunately that’s me, looking very un-glamorous and slightly crazed after a 30 hour journey from Koh Tao in south Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia. This was my first taste of Cambodia – an ‘ice-cream cone’ unlike any I’ve ever eaten. More like a giant, savoury, aerated cane, this snack was filled with very sweet, creamy ice-cream. To be frank it was pretty flavourless and uninspiring, but at the time it was big and fun and lifted the spirits after a pretty horrific journey.
A Cambodian steamed bun called Nom Pao, much like the Vietnamese Banh Bao or Thai Salapao. We ate several thousand of these beauties across SE Asia, but this was the first and best one we had. Delicious moist pork, seasoned heavily with pepper, encasing a rich quail’s egg and wrapped in light sweet dough. Glorious alongside charred corn. And all for like 50p.
In Battambang, we went on a food tour around the surrounding countryside. This is our delightful guide showcasing the pinnacle of snacks – the dried banana. Sliced paper thin by hand (which is bloody difficult, we tried!) and left to dry in the sun. Simple, sweet and satisfying.
We couldn’t go on a food tour without stopping for sticky rice. Rice cooked in a metal tube with coconut milk, sugar and salt, showered with dried coconut and cinnamon sugar. Yum.
This man is making rice wine, and had been for more than 60 years. We found it bizarre that once the fermentation process was complete, the leftover rice was fed to the pigs. This rice is full of alcohol by this point, meaning the pigs are permanently drunk!
The man was very welcoming and gave us some of his product to try. It was lovely. Burnt the throat, but lovely.
An interesting experience. We stopped at a town devoted entirely to making fermented fish paste. I have a strong stomach, and love fish in all its forms, but my god this town was pungent.
We left this stop wearing Eau de fermented fish and with feet speckled in bloody fish. Jokes aside, it was so interesting to see how this vital cooking ingredient is produced.
We found plenty more fish in Kep, a town in south Cambodia. These locals are battling the waves to catch crabs.
The market in Kep had lots of fish on offer, all fresh from the sea and char grilled to perfection.
This is a pepper plantation in Kampot. The fresh pepper was so sweet and flavourful, as well as having that heat we know from dried pepper. It is often served in a sauce accompanying seafood out here. We tried it with crab in Kep and it was one of the nicest dishes I’ve ever had.
Enjoying Amok curry in Battambang. It’s quite soupy in texture and not as hot as Thai curries, but it’s very aromatic, with a hint of sweetness and richness from coconut milk. Not forgetting a savoury kick from that all important fish paste.
More fish. This time in Sihanoukville on Otres Beach. Little lobsters served with a squeeze of lime.
Look at that happy face! Enjoying a strawberry and cream frappe at Temple Cafe in Siem Reap. Just what you need after a day pretending to be Lara Croft at the temples of Ankor Wat.
Sweet street food in the form of a coconut cake.
One of many iced-coffees consumed throughout SE Asia. In Cambodia they are hefty and packed with condensed milk. As you can see, they clearly give you quite a sugar buzz!
I hope you enjoyed this taste of Cambodia. I’ll be testing out some of my favourite Cambodian dishes soon, so stay tuned for some exciting recipes.