This is a continuation of my series about Our Asia Trip. When I left off, we were staying in a Treehouse on a remote island. Before I tell you all about the next destination on our itinerary (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam!), I still have something very important to tell you about Cambodia: all the wonderful food!!!
Yes, at times it was difficult to find vegetarian options, but at the many vegetarian-friendly (and several exclusively vegetarian) places I did find, the meals were so memorable & delicious.
So what is Cambodian (Khmer) food like? It reminded me very much of Thai food, though the curries were creamier and less spicy. In general, the flavor profiles were the same, with plenty of ginger, lemongrass, chilies, and abundant rice.
Here are some of the highlights:
First, my favorite meal in Cambodia was at Chamkar Vegetarian restaurant in the “Pub Street” district of Siem Reap. We sat outside in the charming alley and enjoyed a gourmet Khmer meal, featuring:
Wedding Day Dip ($3.50) – a Creamy Coconut & Mushroom Dip, served with Cambodian Baguette
Crunchy Cassava Fritters ($5.50) – with the most tropical tasting green mango chutney I’ve ever had.
Another night, we dined right across the alley at The Singing Tree Cafe. This restaurant was perfect for Mike and I because while they focus on vegan & vegetarian cuisine (for me!), they do have an omnivorous menu (for him). Best of all, a portion of the restaurant’s profits go to local charities. There was also plenty of material at the restaurant to educate tourists about the issues faced in Cambodia and how we can help.
I love that there was even reading material on our table. Did you know that in Siem Reap Province, over half the people survive on less than 40 cents per day? While you might find the prices of our meals ($3-$5) to be ridiculously low, this is not at all affordable for most locals. In fact, during the days with our Tour Guide, he’d drop us off at a tourist-class restaurant, then he’d walk around the back to a different area of the restaurant, where he’d eat with all the other tour guides from a much different & cheaper menu. (We wanted the real Cambodia experience and asked him if he could take us to a place where the locals truly ate, but he didn’t feel comfortable with that).
Amok Tofu ($3.50) – Amok is one of the most famous Khmer dishes. Typically made with fish, the yellow-curry sauce is flavored with the Amok blend of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, turmeric, galangal, and chilis.
Stir-Fried Morning Glory – I saw this dish on a menu in Bangkok and was SO intrigued by the name, but I didn’t order it since it typically contains Fish Sauce. At Singing Tree Cafe, I finally got to try it and found out that it’s actually stir-fried Water Spinach. This spinach can grow in water, just like a water hyacinth. The texture was like seaweed, but the taste was like…spinach!
Another night, we wound up at the Khmer Kitchen restaurant around the corner. After all the coconut cream we’d been eating lately, my eye was drawn to a light & simple soup. It turned out that the soup I ordered was anything but simple. While I’ve had many Hot & Sour style soups before, this one had a truly perfect balance of flavors. We ordered soup at several other restaurants later in the trip, but none compared to this fragrant & complex bowl.
Khmer Style Soup ($3.00) – A gingery & sour blend of lemongrass, lime leaves, garlic, ginger, galangal, lemon & fresh herbs.
One of the best Khmer meals I had was actually at a random dive-bar in Sihanoukville. We were waiting to catch our bus to Vietnam and stumbled into the place next to our meeting point, not at all expecting a memorable meal.
Lok Lak – This tofu version of the classic Cambodian dish reminded me of how tasty simplicity can be. A sauce of lime juice, salt, and pepper made this stir-fried tofu incredibly memorable.
But then again, it wasn’t any ordinary pepper… it was Kampot Pepper, from the Kampot region of Cambodia, this gourmet pepper is famous around the world. While it’s a luxury spice that’s hard to find here in the US, in Cambodia, it’s found on most tables in an open dish perfect for generous sprinklings.
I’d love to hear from you
What Country’s food have you recently tried?
What Country’s food do you most want to try?
And Stay Tuned for Part 2 of this Post (coming soon!): Shopping & Snacking in Cambodia