On the streets of Phnom Penh you may see the influence of not only French architecture, but also cuisine, taste the complex flavors of regal Khmer dishes, and discover the freshness of lake and seafood creations, including classic fish amok. Cambodian cuisine is experiencing a renaissance with modern Cambodian cooking pulling together all of these influences in world-class dining venues such as Cuisine Wat Damnak in Siem Reap. Immerse into Khmer cuisine with our personalized dining recommendations and arragements, from mouth-watering street food to renowned temples of gastronomy, or for those with deeper interest, join iconic local chefs for interactive cooking classes.
Cambodia epitomizes our approach to exploring the treasures of Asian food. We think that cuisine should be part of the everyday experience in every country you visit. The experiences layer on top of each other, food one element of learning about culture and history. Even when the day’s focus is temples and sightseeing, we’ll have carefully planned out where to have lunch, before offering a range of dining options to enhance your evening. When driving through a region we’ll make stops to sample unique snacks and treats. And as these gastronomic pleasures add themselves to each day, you’ll find that the local cuisine is as unique as the sights you visit.
Cambodian food staples are rice, fish, and bread. Indeed, in Khmer Niam Bay is the word for eating, but the real meaning is "eating rice." Rice, like much of Asia, is paramount to Cambodia dining with almost every meal eaten with a bowl of rice. Cambodia has the regular aromatic rice, but also a delicious glutinous style, commonly known as sticky rice.
Lemon grass is widely used as an herb in Asian and Caribbean cooking. It has a citrus flavor and can be dried and powdered, or used fresh.
Kaffir lime, A very thorny bush with aromatic leaves. The oil from the rind of the rough, bumpy fruit has strong insecticidal properties. The green lime fruits are widely used in Cambodian, Thai, and Lao Cuisine.
Tumeric (curcuma longa) is a part of the ginger family, which is native to tropical South Asia. It is also often.
Tamarind is a dark, sticky fruit used for souring, simmered in curries, stirred into drinks, made into sauces, and also reduced into a sweet and spicy dessert paste.
Galangal, is a rhizome with culinary and medicinal uses, best known in the west today for its appearance in Southeast Asia cuisine but also common in recipes from medieval Europe. It is said to act as an aphrodisiac and stimulant.
Star anise, native to China and used in caramelised meats. Also used as a disgestive aid.
Because of the country's incredible richness in waterways including the Mekong, Sap and Bassac Rivers, not to mention the massive lake, Tonlé Sap, freshwater fish and prawns are especially popular — in addition to which plenty of fresh seafood is available from the Gulf of Thailand.
A lasting French colonial influence, like in Vietnam, means the Cambodians eat more bread than almost every other country in Asia, generally French-style baguettes but also buns and other baked goods. Cambodian cuisine also features fish sauce widely in soups, stir-fried cuisine, and as dippings as the Vietnamese do. Coconut milk is the main ingredient of many Khmer curries and desserts and curry dishes known as kari, shows its ties with Indian cuisine.
In Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, you will find French restaurants with liberal use of Thai and Vietnamese sauces and dishes (sometimes more easily than you can find Khmer food). A typical Cambodian meal consists of fried or steamed rice mixed with pieces of salted, dried, or cooked fish, seasoned with chilies or garlic, often accompanied by soup.
Cambodian cuisine, though uniquely Khmer, has an often repeated generalization—which is nevertheless pretty accurate—likens Cambodian food to Thai food, but without the spiciness and curries. However, these are not comepletely absent and Khmer cuisine draws heavily on the traditions of its Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese neighbors and residents. To understand Khmer food, it is necessary to refer to the history. Once an indianized kingdom located on the Mekong delta, in 1432, the civilization of "Kampuchea" widened its borders into Burma and Vietnam before the Vietnamese started to colonized the delta in the 18th century and Siam squeezed in from the west. It is in this historical setting that the Kampuchean kitchen is influenced by Thai, Vietnamese and indirectly, Chinese cooking.
Popular dishes include an sam chruk, a roll of sticky rice filled with soybean cake and chopped pork, and khao phoun, a noodle dish with a coconut sauce. Freshwater fish comes from Lake Tonle Sap; seafood is also found in the Gulf of Thailand at Sihanoukville. Fish comes grilled (trey aing), steamed whole (trey chorm boy), or fried with vegetables (trey chean neung spey). Somla machou banle is sour fish soup; somla machou bangkang is spicy prawn soup.
Special dishes not to miss include amok, which is fish in coconut, wrapped in a banana leaf. In former times, "royal Cambodian cuisine" was developed in the service of the king are there are chefs in Cambodia who have mastered this culinary art, but restaurants serving this kind of food are rare. For fearless eaters and whom seek try anything once, Cambodia will meet you head-on with such specialty dishes as fried tarantula, cooked scorpions, and grilled snake.
By custom, dinner is included with most hotels and we will arrange for at least your arrival day dinner for convenience. Let us know if you do not wish to have this inclusive to your Angkor trip (don't underestimate your hotel's restaurants and cafes, especially if you are tired — some have the top restaurants in their respective locations, such as La Residence in Siem Reap and the Raffles in Phnom Penh.
Interested in our current dining recommendations for Siem Reap and Phnom Penh? Contact us and we'll send you our Cambodia dining list (updated each season).