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Fish Amok, one of the most delicious Khmer dishes in Cambodia

6 Delicious Khmer Dishes in Cambodia

If you’ve never been to Southeast Asia, give Cambodia a try! This wonderful country features friendly people, lush scenery, ancient ruins, and a rich history. And of course, there are the delicious Khmer dishes in Cambodia.

I’d never been to Cambodia. But I decided to give it a go after learning that an old friend from high school was living there. He offered me a place to stay in Phnom Penh. The Temples of Angkor Wat near Siem Reap were calling, but off to Phnom Penh I went.

After four flights and 23 hours of flying, I landed in Phnom Penh. It was midnight. My friend picked me up, and I had my first tuk-tuk ride into town where my friend dropped me at the apartment.

The next day, around lunchtime, he came to collect me. My first day in Cambodia I ate a meal so delicious I knew I was in for a culinary adventure on this trip. I had no idea what to expect when it came to food, but I’m game to try almost anything. And I was delightfully surprised by the delicious Khmer dishes in Cambodia.

Morning Glory Greens, banana-leaf-wrapped fish, succulent shrimp, vegetables, rice, and more. Yum. Plus, the presentation was so beautiful I almost hated to eat the food – almost!

Morning Glory Greens

 

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Morning glory greens are locally grown and ubiquitous. Also known as Water Spinach, Chinese Spinach or Swamp Cabbage, they’re delicious. The greens grow in wet fields that look like rice paddies.

Morning glory greens cook down the way spinach does, but the stalks are thicker. When cooked, the stalks look akin to wilted scallions but taste mild with a hint of sweetness.

These greens are wonderful on their own, but they’re a great accompaniment to many Khmer dishes. For example, stir-fried with garlic and soy sauce, they were the perfect vegetables to go along with fish. So I found myself ordering them with almost every meal.

Fish Amok – The National Dish

 

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Fish Amok (or Banana-Leaf-Wrapped Fish) is Cambodia’s national dish. Therefore, you’ll find this delightful treat served throughout the country.

The presentation is eye-catching and inviting when served in its leaf saucer. The chef coats a delicate mild white fish, such as mahi-mahi or halibut in a fine curry paste. The fish is then fried. The ingredients include lemongrass, turmeric, and chili paste.

The curry adds a hint of sweetness, and the fish comes with a spoonful of coconut cream on top. Thinly shaved red peppers and finely sliced kaffir lime leaves top it off. A huge helping of rice complements it, as well as almost every other meal.

Shrimp and Vegetables

While shrimp and vegetables can be had around the globe, the Khmer variation is delectable. This dish features succulent shrimp accompanied by green peppers, bamboo shoots, and onions stir-fried to perfection. Everything is in a light soy sauce and garlic mix.

Fresh green sprigs of Kampot peppercorns garnished my plate. I’ve never seen pepper served like this anywhere else. My friend showed me how to eat them. You only have to strip the peppercorns off the stalk with your teeth – spicy and delicious! The peppercorns were addictive.

Fried Thai Zebra Tarantulas

In Siem Reap, you’ll find everything from Indian food to pizza. But I also saw some foods that I couldn’t quite bring myself to eat. Those were the fried crickets, tarantulas, and snake on a stick.

TAKEAWAY: Fried Thai Zebra Tarantulas are found on street vendor carts in Cambodia. Considered a delicacy and even a tourist attraction, the spiders delivered protein to many a starving Khmer during the terrible reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. They’re still eaten today. Unfortunately, due to deforestation and tourist demands, the spiders are being over-harvested. It’s not known how much longer they’ll survive.

Don’t Forget the Juice

 

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Some of the most delicious and refreshing juice I’ve ever had was in Cambodia. Maybe the juices are so wonderful because they’re such a soothing balm in the high heat and humidity. But, in any case, the fresh-squeezed juice was a treat.

The mango juice was my favorite though watermelon was a close second. I tried to stick with cooked foods for most of my trip to avoid an upset stomach. However, the juice was too delicious to pass up. I’m glad I didn’t.

After Phnom Penh, a trip to Siem Reap was in order. If you’re going to Cambodia, don’t miss the famed Temples of Angkor Wat. Nearby Siem Reap features Pub Street with its many bars and restaurants.

Angkor Beer

You can’t leave Cambodia without trying Angkor Beer. Named after the famous ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, this is a refreshing, easy-drinking beer that goes well with most of the delicious Khmer dishes in Cambodia. It’s served everywhere, so it’s easy to find.

There are so many delicious Khmer dishes – from the beef to the fresh eggs to the “Happy Pizza,” famously happy because its main ingredient is marijuana! So when you go to Cambodia, don’t be afraid to try something new. You’ll be glad you did!

About Susan Bertram

I'm a professional photographer who grew up in Southern California and now call Atlanta home. My passport is well used. I love to write, travel, and eat as well as take photographs everywhere I go!

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