A personal take on Cambodian cooking

Posted by:

Showcasing Khmer cooking delights is hard, but I’ll try…

First off, I would say Fish Amok served in banana leaves is the most traditional and popular dish to be found throughout the country. It’s an easy dish to make providing you have the right ingredients: white fish (I don’t think it really matters which one), fish sauce, sugar, salt, pepper, coconut milk, lemon grass, nhor leaves, galangal, turmeric, garlic, shallots and, of course, chillies! Although not really a spicy dish, it’s a creamy mix which mixed altogether and steamed tastes fantastic.

A popular place in Siem Reap to try Amok is Sugar Palm Restaurant on Taphul Street where they showcase great examples of Cambodian cooking.

Another favourite of mine is ‘Beef Lok Lak’ complete with a fried egg on top, served with the all important pepper and lime sauce. Mix some pepper and salt with freshly squeezed limes to get a unique sour tasting sauce. You can now get Lok Lak pizza in town which is worth a try, but no substitute for the real dish!

The pepper has to be the distinct intense flavours of Kampot Pepper which is alternatively served perfectly with steak or fresh crab from Kep. For a real treat why not try one of our favourite restaurants in Siem Reap, Abacus, who serve it with apple crumble and custard.

Fried chicken and cashew nuts is best tasted at Jasmine Lodge. I first tried this eight years ago and its taste just as good as that very first time.

Khmer curry is another traditional classic that needs to be tasted, served with either chicken or fish or pork. But what makes it truly unique is cooking it with sweet potatoes. Try it at the Khmer Kitchen in the old market area and you won’t be disappointed.

The bustling markets are a must do in any Cambodian town, Siem Reap’s old market is no exception. If you visit early in the morning it’s a hive of activity as morning shoppers stop by to pick up their family’s daily provisions.

As you walk about your every sense is heighted as you watch the vivid colours of exotic fruits, the hive of chatter from the local bartering and gossip, and you can’t miss the overwhelming smell of prahoc. All around old market you’ll find noodle stalls and breakfast bars where you’ll find a warming bowl of Bor Bor (a sort of rice porridge), which the locals will eat as comfort or healing bowl of soup.

Before you leave the market don’t forget to buy some fresh sweet fruits some of our favourites include papaya, mango and dragon fruits. If you’ll lucky the seller will cut it for you and give you a chilli dipping mix to add a savoury spark to it!

Some our favourite salads include these delicious fruits for example green papaya salad, found throughout South-east Asia it’s a typically a shake-up of garlic, chilli peppers, a zest of lime, green beans, basil, cilantro, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce, dark brown sugar and roasted peanuts. You’ll often find this on one of the courses served at a traditional Khmer wedding.

We also love pomelo served with shrimps and green mango salad with smoked fish.

Don’t forget to buy bananas and coconuts too, you can make umpteen desserts with these tasty Cambodian staple foods. Here’s a few to try… Sticky Rice Cakes with Banana and Coconut, Coconut Ice Cream and Caramelised Bananas. And last but not least Banana Fingers with Sticky Rice and Coconut Milk served with a smile every Wednesday on the popular one-dollar night at Soria Moria Fusion Kitchen.

For more culinary inspiration, books about Khmer cooking and Southeast Asian street food, you might want to check out the below Amazon ideas lists where you’ll find recipes for traditional dishes such as traditional Fish Amok and Beef Loklak to a range of succulent street food you’ll find on your travels in and around Cambodia


Khmer food and Cambodian cooking
Southeast Asian street food

You can also find more ideas list at amazon.co.uk/shop/mekongexp and amazon.com/shop/mekongexp

Latest posts by Jo Hansen (see all)

You might also like these articles

  • Pchum Ben – Ancestors’ Day in CambodiaPchum Ben – Ancestors’ Day in Cambodia Culminating with celebrations across the country on the 15th day of the tenth month in the Cambodian (Khmer) calendar, Pchum Ben (បុណ្យភ្ជុំបិណ្ឌ) is one of the biggest and most important […]
  • This Life Cambodia: Ten years keeping families togetherThis Life Cambodia: Ten years keeping families together Just over ten years ago, we first met Billy Gorter, Founder and Executive Director of This Life Cambodia (TLC) in Siem Reap, Cambodia. We still remember his excitement and enthusiasm when […]
  • Celebrating World Responsible Tourism Day in Siem ReapCelebrating World Responsible Tourism Day in Siem Reap This November sees a range of anniversaries and celebrations within the fields of responsible travel and tourism. World Travel Market in London will mark 20 years of Responsible Tourism […]