Eating good, healthy food is so important. That’s why street food is everywhere!
Eating good, healthy food is essential, and in Cambodia, this sentiment is deeply ingrained in the culture. When you greet someone in Cambodia, one of the first questions you ask is, "How are you, have you eaten yet?" Food is a source of pride and joy here, and it's a crucial part of the vibrant Khmer culture. In this blog post, we will introduce you to some of our favorite Cambodian snacks and meals, focusing on our After Dark Food Tour, all while showing respect to the rich culinary heritage of Cambodia.
A trip to Cambodia is a great palette cleanser. Within the Khmer cuisine, there’s hardly a dish that doesn’t contain rice and freshwater fish. There is no other food supply that can be found readily available and cheap anywhere except the Mekong and Tonle Sap. Fields are irrigated for rice, and Cambodia’s environment provides natural resources for the fish.
You must try these Khmer dishes when you travel to Cambodia.
One of the most popular dishes that best represents Khmer cuisine. It is a steamed fish curry composed of coconut milk, fish sauce, eggs, and curry paste with white jasmine rice on the side. Traditionally, it is served in banana leaf cups with a touch of coconut cream on top!
Cambodia’s famous rice noodle soup with pork or beef stock, topped with bean sprouts and green onions. Pick a meat topping of your choice: chicken, pork, or beef. On the side, you will be served a sweet, tangy, garlic sauce with a slice of fresh lime. At the table, add extra seasoning for taste. Fish sauce and sriracha can be used to add saltiness and a bit of spice!
A typical stir fry among the national Cambodian dishes. With stir-fried beef slices in a brown sauce served with rice, green salad, fresh tomatoes, and pepper sauce. The beef is typically marinated before cooking to enhance the flavors and make it tender. You will find this meal all over Cambodia! However, the secret to mastering this dish is the sauce and it can vary from chefs to region. There’s a multitude of other ingredients, but they’re by far the best for all palates to appreciate. Spices are often combined with the sauce. Hot or not, the sauce alone won’t depreciate the flavors, you can count on that.
9 Iconic Street Foods You Must Try in Cambodia
Yes, it can be scary to come across many-legged insects in your household! But trust me, your creepy crawling houseguests are different here in Cambodia. Our Siem Reap beetles are clean, tasty, and crunchy! One of the few tips we pass during our After Dark Food Tour is, the female water beetles are much meatier and are therefore sold at a higher price. The male water beetles have a pointy black “needle” under their shell that needs to be detached and removed before you eat it. Once you start enjoying this tasty appetizer, you’ll want to try the next insect-inspired snack.
This crunchy delicacy takes some bravery, but it’s most definitely worth a try! Crickets are served deep-fried and are seasoned to perfection. Crickets are easier to catch and harvest at night in traditional cricket farms or fluorescent traps by farmers in the hope of earning some extra money. Now considered a superfood, they’re eaten during family dinners and are sold to both domestic and international markets.
They’re delicious! People are often hesitant to try them at first but if you plan to visit Cambodia, you shouldn’t miss out. It’s one of the most delicious dishes you’ll want to try more than once in Siem Reap. You may be told that texture and taste-wise, frogs are fairly similar to chicken. In Cambodia, a popular way to eat them is by stuffing their limbs and bellies with fresh curry, pork, and chopped vegetables. You’ll taste more rounded flavors infused with herbs, spices, and lemongrass! Still feeling reluctant? Mix it with rice or porridge, and take a bite.
Let’s dive into the benefits of eating ants. They’re incredibly low in calories as well as fat and contain high protein levels. They’re proven to be effective in the treatment of immunity disorders! Although they don’t come off as an appetizing ingredient, it’s a great addition to a healthy diet. One of our guests couldn’t have explained it any better: “Now I didn’t realize I was eating ants as I swallowed them, which was probably better. It was night time, and I guess I was deep in conversation when the discussion carried on about the ants we would try. It’s an easy thing to miss, seeing as the ants were mixed in with meat and vegetables. When I was told I was eating ants I was in disbelief. So I put my flashlight on the plate, and, yup, there they were. They added a delicious sour taste to the dish, and I highly recommend you try them. Plus, they are high in protein!”
How do we catch them? When it’s dark, farmers search from bush to bush in their neighborhood using a headlamp, catching them when they least expect it. They’re caught one-by-one, so it’s not an easy job. How do Cambodians prepare grasshoppers? First, they’re kept in a saltwater solution, then marinated with a flavor of your choice. Second, they’re submerged and fried in hot cooking oil for 5 – 10 minutes. There you have it, your crispy delights are ready to be served! Why do we eat grasshoppers? Because they’re a good source of protein, vitamin C, and iron, with zero fat. Grasshoppers can still be caught in the wild because they’re not being farmed yet, but this may be a new step forward in the near future. Many Cambodians love to eat them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They also make a perfect day-time snack! To all my guests, try them at least once. They’re healthy, nutritious, and crunchy, just like a good snack should be.
Would you believe me if I said they taste like boiled peanuts? Instead of taking fish oil supplements, we eat this! Previously, silkworm warming was only associated with silk weaving. Now, they’re considered a food staple. According to naturopath experts, they minimize the occurrence of diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s! Cambodians believe they help to keep their muscles stronger and reduce fatigue. Silkworms are also deep-fried, and they can be eaten with or without rice, when warm or cold. They come in all shapes and sizes and are one of the highlights of our After Dark Food Tour.
Why do we prefer buffalo meat? Because it tastes sweeter than cow meat! What we have on our food tour for guests to try is buffalo jerky. A thick, chewy cut of dried buffalo meat seasoned with galangal herb or ginger that’s ready to eat. If you’ve never tried buffalo, you are going to be pleasantly surprised! Our guests love it and found themselves wanting more of its superior flavor. Buffalo jerky is especially good with a beer. Crocodile meat is prepared in the same way but it has its own distinct, fishy flavor with a springy texture like chicken. The ones that we eat these days are farmed and raised in captivity for their leather skin.
Sweet, sticky rice! It doesn't have the most unique flavor, but there’s something about it that draws you in. Perhaps it’s the glutinous rice or the way in which it was made. Kralan is a sweet dessert that consists of rice, coconut milk, and black beans, all cooked inside sections of a bamboo pipeline for roughly an hour. The step-by-step instructions are very straightforward but it’s a lengthy, laborious process for a treasured savory that is sold for only 30 cents per stick! This simple and satisfying snack is super easy to eat. Just remove the coconut or banana leaf from the opening, peel the bamboo pipeline, and you’ve got yourself a delicious snack.
At Adventures Cambodia, we provide a Food Tour every day, offering you an insight into traditional Khmer cuisine. Cambodians have a history of resourcefulness when it comes to food, and this dates back to the Pol Pot years. Be prepared to amaze your taste buds and discover new flavors during our After Dark Food Tour from 6 pm to 10 pm. Join us to experience the vibrant world of Cambodian food, filled with history, culture, and incredible flavors.
If you are precautious and concerned about safety and hygiene like us, we’ve got you. Read our article regarding handy tips you may need when coming to Cambodia.