The beauty of Cambodia goes far beyond the famous Angkor Wat ruins or the charm of the Khmer people’s simple life style. The country’s food culture is also not to be missed. In the Khmer diet, rice and freshwater fish play big roles because of the abundance of both. Cambodia has two main sources of natural fresh water, the Mekong river and the Tonle Sap, a huge lake connected to the Mekong. In the monsoon season, the Tonle Sap floods some 16,000 square kilometers of the country, irrigating rice fields and providing breeding grounds for fish.

Myths about Cambodian Cuisine ...

Although it may appear difficult to some, Cambodian food is actually simple to prepare and quite straightforward.  Cambodian food doesn’t require too many ingredients; the art of Cambodian cooking lies in the simplicity of combining herbs and seasonings.

Because of some similarities, Cambodian cooking is quite often compared with other food in the region.  Some claim that Cambodian dishes are influenced by those of its neighboring countries, yet most people do not realise that many of the dishes served in South East Asia actually have their roots in Cambodian Cooking. The Cambodian Kingdom which is centered in Angkor, ruled an empire that included most of South East Asia more than a thousand years ago.


Indeed, there is resemblance but there are however significant differences between Cambodian cooking and the others in South East Asia.  Cambodian recipes go very far back to the days before the introduction of the chili and therefore much milder than most other Asian food. The chili was not known in Asia until the 16th century when it arrived with the Portuguese.

The Cambodian curry is a popular dish favored by many foreigners because it is not spicy therefore making it more appealing. The Cambodian curry may appear red and spicy, but it is actually quite sweet as Cambodians traditionally use sweet potatoes in curries, whereas cooks from other Asian countries use potatoes.  The redness comes mostly from the Kruop kak seeds and not from chili.

Perhaps an outstanding distinction in the array of ingredients is the Prahok; a crushed, salted and fermented fish paste used as a seasoning or a condiment. Cambodians use the Prahok in most of their cooking.  The Prahok gives the food that distinguished Cambodian flavor and taste.  This highly aromatic and strong flavored paste originated as a way of preserving fish during the longer months when fresh fish was not available in abundant supply. However, contrary to popular belief, Prahok is not required in every Cambodian dish.

Cambodian food is truly unique if one must really compare it to cuisines of other countries around south-east Asia.  Like with all things Cambodian, be it music, dances or food; Cambodian cuisine is extremely traditional.

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