Fascinating Cambodian Cuisine: 12 Unique Dishes to Feast On (Part 1)

1 – Amok: The Emblem of Cambodian Cuisine

When visiting the Kingdom of Cambodia, Amok, the national dish is not to be missed.

While you may be offered a variety of Amok versions, the most authentic and local is Fish Amok.

Fish amok is a sublime combination of fresh river fish (often snakehead) and coconut cream, steamed in banana leaves. It is absolutely delicious, moist and elegant. The unique Cambodian ingredient in this dish is Kroeung, a curry paste, which gives it a distinct flavor. The dish is served with a side of rice.

Amok-Cambodia

The traditional dish is Fish Amok, if you are offered “chicken”, “beef” or “vegetarian” options, the restaurant is appealing to tourists. Amok is always steamed. If it is prepared in any other way, it is not following the traditional recipe.

Finally, make sure the fish is local river fish. Snakehead is the popular local fish. Stay away from other types of fish.

Where to Have It

We had this Khmer dish several times in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. We highlight below Khmer Women’s Restaurant in Phnom Penh as one place to enjoy Cambodian cuisine.

Khmer Women Restaurant

Khmer Women’s Restaurant

Address: One block East from the corner of St 308 and St 29 in Phnom Penh

Hours: Everyday from 7 am to 10 pm

Price: $4 per dish

2 – Kuyteav: The Most Popular Cambodian Breakfast

When it comes to local breakfast specialties, there is one dish that rises above the rest. Kuyteav is the capital’s undisputed pride. This extremely popular breakfast is a rich broth made from pork bones, dried squid and a generous amount of condiments and garnish.

Kuyteav

Kuyteav Phnom Penh as the local version is called, takes the dish to the next level by adding giant prawns from the Mekong river and beef offal.

While it is an unusual breakfast for Westerners, we were amazed by the depth of flavors. We found it simple, tasty and enjoyed the vermicelli noodles with carrots, greens, and turnip.

Where to Have It

This is a really local market with friendly vendors. You will not see any tourists and you will get a glimpse into the daily life of locals in Siem Reap.

Langka Market Food Stall

Outdoor Food Stall at Pho Langka Market

Find the stall on the left-hand side of the market when you are facing it. If you see the lady from the picture, you’re in good hands!

Address: Pho Langka Market, Siem Reap

Hours: Every day from 7 am to 12 pm

Price: 3000 Riel per dish (about $0.75 USD)

3 – Bobor Rice Porridge: Typical Khmer Food

Bobor is a rice porridge, typically served with ginger and fish or poultry. It is a popular dish for breakfast and evenings amongst local workers.

The simplicity of this Cambodian food makes it a popular option. It is a thick and flavorful soup, with either chicken or fish, congealed blood, and offal. Sitting on top of the porridge is ginger, coriander, and crunchy fried onions.

Bobor Rice Porridge

In addition to the delicious taste, it is also one of the cheapest meals you’ll find. Be sure to enjoy this classic Cambodian cuisine on your travels to the Kingdom.

Where to Have It

This market is one of the landmarks of Phnom Penh. The Khmer name for the market is Phsar Thmei or New Market. The unique art deco building was designed by French architects in 1937.  

Central Market Food Stall

Central Market at Food Stall G-123

Address: Central Market, Phnom Penh

Hours: Every day from 7 am to 6 pm

Price: $1.50 USD or 6000 Riel per dish.

Look for the number G-123 for the best Kuyteav!

4 – Bai Sai Chrouk: Another Everyday Breakfast Food

Bai Sai Chrouk is another popular breakfast dish in Cambodia. Made with pork slices marinated in coconut milk or garlic slowly grilled over charcoal. It is typically served with rice, pickles, and sometimes, a fried egg. Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots are added on top.

Bai Sai Chrouk

This dish literally means rice and pork. The skin of the pork is caramelized from the marinade, and the pork itself quite tender. It has a very nice sweet and salty taste. With the fresh vegetables, it is an easy meal to have at any time of the day.

Where to Have It

We had it at Khmer Women’s Restaurant in Phnom Penh. This simple restaurant is quite quaint and with outdoor seatings.

Khmer Women’s Restaurant

Address: One block East from the corner of St 308 and St 29 in Phnom Penh.

Hours: Every day from 7 am to 10 pm

Prices: $1.50 per dish.

5 – Beef Lok Lak: Crowd-Pleasing Cambodian Food

Beef Lok Lak is a very popular dish in Cambodia especially amongst the tourist as it involves “safer” and popular ingredients like beef.

Beef Lok Lak-Cambodia

It is a Vietnamese inspired dish where the beef is cut into cubes before being sauteed. Typically, it is served on a bed of lettuce, red and green onions, cucumbers and tomatoes. Beef Lok Lak comes with a light sauce made with lime juice, salt, and black Kampot pepper.

You might also get a fried egg on the side and of course rice, which is a staple in Cambodia.

Where to Have It

We recommend this delicious food joint in Siem Reap with outstanding local cuisine. On their English menu is where to find the Beef Lok Lak.

Heng Reng Restaurant

Heng Heng Restaurant

Address: Street 17 & River Road – a few stall before river road, Sangkat Slorgram, Siem Reap

Hours: Everyday from 10 am to 9 pm

Price: $3 per dish.

6 – Prahok: A Traditional Ingredient in Khmer or Cambodian Cuisine

Loved by most Cambodians, yet loathed by most foreigners is the signature aroma of Prahok.

Prahok is a concoction of crushed and salted fish that gives off a pungent smell. Grey in color and visually unattractive, Prahok is left to ferment until it matures. It is used as a condiment or seasoning in nearly every Cambodian food.

Cambodia-Prahok

Sitting in the buckets is Prahok, the taste of Cambodia

Prahok is one of the main sources of protein in Khmer food. In the countryside, simple meals of prahok and rice are common.

The stench of prahok in the markets was quite overpowering. As culinary explorers on the hunt for local and authentic foods, we had to find a way to taste prahok, a rare find on restaurant menus.

Marum Restaurant in Siem Reap which serves delicious local food proved to be the perfect tasting ground. On the menu was a Khmer specialty of prawn and pork prahok dip served with local vegetables and crispy rice.

Prahok 2

Where to Have it

Eating at an NGO, fine dining restaurant in Cambodia is an experience not to miss.

In Siem Reap, go to Marum restaurant. They offer a mix a solid local cuisine. The restaurant also works with street children and other marginalized youth and trains them in hospitality. You will eat good and feel good about eating at Marum.

Marum restaurant

Address: #8A, B Phum Slokram (Between Wat Polanka and Catholic Church), Siem Reap

Hours: Everyday from 11 am to 11 pm.

Prices: $5.75 per dish.

Source: authenticfoodquest