The environment has crafted a unique Cambodian cuisine. There are 2,000 different types of rice that naturally grow in Cambodia. They’ve crafted many different rice dishes. But Cambodian cuisine also focuses on fresh seafood and bold spices. Favorite spices or seasoning include turmeric, cardamom, and Kampot black pepper.
Popular staples in Cambodian food use the wetlands which have a lot of variations of rice, sauces, shrimp, and freshwater fish. Many people wonder what to eat in Cambodia when they typically avoid animal products, but there are tons of vegan or vegetarian options.
What to Eat in Cambodia
Many favorite Cambodian dishes include rice noodle dishes with kuy teav as one of the more popular options. Rice noodle dishes usually have pork or fish-based broth. Kuy teav is traditionally served with garnishes such as lettuce, bean sprouts, and scallions. This soup is most popularly served at breakfast. Some breakfast soups use a green curry sauce.
Soups are a popular go-to for tourists, and vacationers because they’re easy to order and delicious. A popular option is Chhang Plerng which is very similar to a Chinese hot pot. This soup is a winter favorite among locals as well. Travelers love this Cambodian food because of how easy it is to customize with your personal preferences. Chhang plerng can include shrimp, fish, egg noodles, beef, spinach, bean noodles, or a variety of different vegetables.
Stir fry is another popular option for tourists and found in nearly every corner of Cambodia. Stir-fry dishes usually include noodles, sweet and spicy sauces, different types of meat and are generally served with spring rolls. Bai chha is a dish that uses Chinese sausages and fried rice.
Whenever you’re visiting Cambodia, you’re sure to experience a wide variety of culinary excursions. While in Cambodia you might feel hesitant to try many foods, especially the street foods, but keep your options open.
What Not to Eat in Cambodia
Like many other countries, you want to avoid chain restaurants. Many restaurants throughout the inner cities of Cambodia host a variety of dishes that aren’t genuinely Cambodian. These dishes are variations of non-traditional Chinese or Vietnamese dishes found throughout the United States. That’s not to be confused with the restaurants that have a strong French influence.
There are some bizarre foods in Cambodian cuisine which are strange to westerners but not so much to other areas of the world. You may not be interested in eating bugs, or snakes, but if you’re feeling adventurous, you can give it a try. The history of Cambodia drove locals to eat anything they could to survive.
Now, snakes, bugs, and dog are served street side as BBQ. Everyday Cambodian street foods include grasshoppers, snakes, and worms. You can give it a try because it’s not dangerous, just odd to many people.
Many locals are willing to help you identify which dishes suit a western of foreign palate best. Recipes that use strong herbs or spices are often overpowering for tourists. Avoid fish dishes if you don’t usually eat fish.
One dish that many travelers acknowledge wasn’t for them is the bitter melon soup, called Sgno Mareash. Many local restaurants don’t serve this dish to foreigners because it’s so bitter. If you’re looking for an authentic local dining experience, you might be able to convince a local owner to serve you a bowl.
Many tourists avoid street food because it’s usually skewers of seafood or soups served in flimsy containers. There aren’t many dishes which are so unappealing to western palates, but many stay away from skewered squid on the streets.
Must-have Street Food
Although some street food is best avoided, there is the distinct difference between good and bad street food. Good street food should be convenient, comfortable to eat while walking and come from a clean looking vendor.
Although the vendors may not always look great, go with the best you can find. One favorite street food for travelers is the famous Cambodian sandwich, the Num Pang. This sandwich is a blend of meats and cheese on a baguette.
BBQ is the best street food possible, but it’s also a staple for any other meal. BBQ chicken, beef, and some seafood options can make a great snack or meal.
Where to Go for Lunch or Dinner?
Marum restaurant is a well-known establishment that caters to tourists but serves authentic Cambodian food. Many restaurants have an English menu available for tourists upon request, so you’re not completely limited.
When you’re looking for where to eat lunch in Cambodia, you should try Eleven One Kitchen BKK or Backyard Café. These places are popular with tourists but serve traditional Cambodian or European dishes. If you’re looking for something a little higher end, give Mok Mony a try.
For dinner, you should try the fine dining found at Khema Pasteur. Cambodia’s French roots have crafted much of today’s Cambodian Cuisine. Although you’ll find both traditional French and Cambodian dishes, you’ll see there’s a unique flair to everything at Khema Pasteur.
If you’re trying to find where to have dinner for a more casual night in Cambodia, you should try Kabbas Restaurant and Romdeng for traditional Cambodian dishes that will keep you full all night long.
Many of Cambodia’s best restaurants are in Phnom Penh. Many tourists try to prepare their meal plans and dining experiences before they arrive in Cambodia. But, Cambodia’s culture cultivates a go-with-the-flow feeling. Keep your dining plans open so you can experience everything that Cambodia has to offer.
An Entire Day of Eating
Start the day off with kuy teav for breakfast, grab a BBQ street snack and stop in for an excellent dining experience at night. Cambodia has a wealth of options available when it comes to food. Although it seems like you run into the same dishes in different areas, Cambodian cuisine is very localized. Try out local food in small towns between cities as you’ll get fresh food as you’ve never experienced before.