Gastronomic culture of Cambodia
As the culinary habits of many peoples of the humid rice civilization in Asia, Cambodian cuisine has the distinctive characteristics. Cambodia people used to eat rice and more fish than meat. There are many similarities between Cambodian cuisine and the cuisine of their neighbors, especially Thailand and Vietnam. Like their neighboring countries, rice and noodles are presented in most of their dishes yet Cambodian cuisine has its own distinctive characteristics. Cambodians are masters at combining spice and flavours in their dishes. They want to make sure that the saltiness, the bitter, the sweetness and the sour are always presented in every meal. Since the country is blessed with lots of both freshwater and saltwater fish, the locals tend to have more fish than meat.
The prohok sauce:
Prohok sauce is a pungent fermented fish paste and is used widely as an ingredient to add a special flavour to Cambodian cooking. The fish are marinated with salt and put in the sealed cabinet for a few months. This is a traditional ingredient of Cambodia and of the ethnic peoples of Vietnam who are influenced by the Khmer culinary culture. Prohok can appear quite strong and bizarre to the taste of foreigners but with a few try, you are halfway there to understand the cuisine of this amazing country.
The palm sugar:
If Southern Vietnam is known for having lots of coconut palms, then Cambodia is known for borassus flabellifer (doub palm, palmyra palm). Thanks to its utilities, they are very related to people's live. With its various uses, this plant integrates fully into the lives of the people living here. For example, the leaves are used for roofing, tree trunks for pillars. Its juice, distilled from its flowers, has a pure taste which is cooked into sugar. Palm sugar is known as skoa tnaot in Cambodia. It has a rich caramel flavour that is more complex than that of cane sugar. Palm sugar is used not only for making compote, but also for food such as soup or dishes cooked with sauce. Light wine can also be made from the juice.
These are black and hairy black tarantulas that live in tropical forests. They are taken directly from the cave, marinated with salt, sugar and sodium glutamate, then fried in oil with garlic until its feet harden while carefully not cracking. Spiders coated with flour or sugar will make the guests not recognize their hairs. Cambodians, especially children like to eat this kind of food. Grilled spiders do not contain much protein or preservatives like other fast food. Moreover, the Khmer women believe that they consider as an excellent remedy for the beauty.
One interesting fact is that this food is born out of necessity during the reign of the Khmer Rouge when people were suffered from poverty and hunger. Grilled spider remain part of Cambodian cuisine even after the famine ended just because they taste good! Yet, not everybody can have grilled spiders everyday as they are considered expensive to many. Therefore, some people only have them during special events such as a birthday party.
Amok is one of the famous specialties and is considered as the quintessence of Cambodian cuisine. This dish combines specific flavors: sweetness of palm sugar, creamy taste of coconut milk with the light smell of the prohok sauce harmonizing with the aroma of banana leaves. In Cambodia, Amok chicken is also known as soup. The ingredients for Amok chicken include chicken breast, coconut cream and Khuong - a unique spice in Cambodian cuisine. Khuong is made from lemon forest (which has a lumpy cover and is very fragrant), tuber Ngai Bun, galingale, turmeric, onion, garlic and lemongrass chopped.This rustic dish is often put in a coconut. You must eat slowly to feel the taste of chicken and copra melting in your mouth.
The Vermicelli Nom Banh Chok:
Its nickname is the "national dish" of Cambodia. This dish is made from fermented rice with fish curry sauce mixed with the flavor of lemongrass, lime leaves and turmeric. It is often eaten with salad, cabbage, cucumber and spicy chili sauce.
Grilled dishes are very popular. You can see them all over Cambodia. Most inns, restaurants often have a shiny coal stove at the door with: grilled nutritional seafood, grilled meats with tasty spices etc. Especially, you should taste the water bug while traveling to this country.
Neem, a kind of flower is considered a specialty of Cambodia. This flower has a taste like bitter melon but the sweetness remains on the tip of the tongue. Neem flowers are mixed with dried meats like: dried squid, dried fish, dried tilapia. Besides the flowers, the dish also has turnips, thin cucumber and tamarind sauce. This dish is fairly easy to eat and is appreciated by many people, especially drinkers.
Source : Internet