Food in Cambodia

Cambodian cuisine or Khmer cuisine is the traditional cuisine of the people of Cambodia.

Water, rice and freshwater fish exert the most profound influences on Khmer cuisine. The Mekong river, the twelfth longest in the world, cuts through the very heart of Cambodia. The capital Phnom Penh is on its riverbank, at the junction where two other rivers meet: the Tonle Sap and Bassac. The Tonle Sap river connects the Mekong with the Tonle Sap lake, or Great Lake, which acts as a liquid heart and natural reservoir for the entire Mekong river system, regulating the flow of huge volumes of water, and allowing the safe passage of an astonishing number of freshwater fish. The lake itself is believed to have more fish than any other in the world and ranks second to the Amazon river in biodiversity.

Cambodian National Dishes

Amok trey

Amok trey also known as amok trei or fish amok is a traditional dish of Cambodian cuisine. It involves fish being coated in coconut milk with kroeung and steamed in banana leaves. It is often eaten during the Water Festival, which celebrates the reversal of the Tonle Sap River. An important part of the dish is the addition of the leaves of the noni tree and the use of fingerroot.

Fish amok is widely claimed to be Cambodia’s national dish. Despite this fact, it is not a dish that is commonly eaten by Cambodian people, and is much more commonly consumed by tourists. Cambodian fish amok is not a uniquely Cambodian invention, but in fact derives from Thai fish hor mok. Little has been written about the history of Cambodian fish amok, and sources largely do not make it clear the extent to which authentic Cambodian fish amok differs from Thai fish hor mok. One obvious difference, however, would be the use of kroeung, which is a Cambodian ingredient.

The vast majority of restaurants in Cambodia serve an inauthentic version of amok trey to tourists, because of the difficulty and time required to make authentic amok trey. Another way that restaurants often serve inauthentic fish amok is by baking the dish, rather than steaming it. Authentic amok trey should always be steamed, rather than baked, otherwise the dish is not amok trey by definition.

Country Food - Cambodia - Amok trey
Country Food – Cambodia – Amok trey

Samlor Kako

Samlar kakou is a traditional soup dish of Cambodia. Samlar kakou also considered as one of Cambodian’s national dish. The dish consists of kroeung, fish paste, fish flesh, pork or chicken and vegetables.

Unlike other Khmer dishes, this can be served as a one-pot dish because it is a reassuringly well balanced meal on its own. Some prefer it as a vegetarian dish where the fish and meat are omitted and replaced by coconut cream and vegetable stock.

Country Food - Cambodia - Samlor Kako
Country Food – Cambodia – Samlor Kako

Sources