Culinary Tours in Cambodia
Khmer food is delicious using many different herbs and spices however it is not as hot as Thai or as sour as Vietnamese food
Many foreign guests coming to Cambodia are often very surprised at the delicious food. Khmer food is not as well known about as Thai or Vietnamese food but it is probably more 'suited' to a western tongue than both of these cuisines
The Khmer eat plenty of fresh water fish as the rivers, lakes and rice fields (in the wet season) have fish in abundance. In addition, they often eat pork and chicken but if they able to afford it, they love their beef. Seafood is generally too expensive unless living by the ocean however they will never say no to seafood!
As with other Asian countries, sharing a few dishes at meal times is the norm amongst families. A classical meal includes a soup (always very delicious) served with at least 2 or three other dishes. Soups are served with all other dishes and one usually spoons the soup over one's rice. The dishes will often compliment each other e.g. there may be one dish that is a little salty, another a little sweet and the soup may be sour. One dish is usually fried, another may be a curry but they are rarely hot - usually full of spices but not hot. Chilli is rarely added to the food but left up to the individual to add if they desire. White rice is always served with meals
Noodles are common but usually eaten for breakfast rather than lunch or dinner. They are made from rice and can either be fresh - served with a mild curry gravy and bean sprouts, beans, banana flower and cucumbers and called 'nom ban chok' or dried noodles which are cooked and served with clear pork stock, lettuce, bean sprouts, sawleaf herb and pepper - 'kuayteo'
The most famous ingredient for Cambodian cuisine is the fermented fish paste known as prahok. Usually this is an acquired taste however if only small quantities are added to dishes, most people would not detect the flavour. For a week in December, January and February, the fish required to make this prahok are running close to Phnom Penh so you might see literally hundreds of boats fishing to either dry or ferment them
Other common ingredients include 'groueng' which is roughly translated to 'ingredients' but includes lemongrass, galanga, garlic, shallots, coriander, kaffir lime leaves and turmeric. This delicious mixture of herbs and spices is mixed in a mortar and pestle and then added to various dishes including soups, stir fries and even used as stuffing for grilled stuffed frogs! It is simply delicious and if you don't make it yourself whilst in Cambodia, you must try it
Khmer are very particular about their rice. They do not like stale rice and will do everything possible to eat the freshest rice they can find. Sticky rice is available but usually made into sweets rather than eaten with their savoury meals. In some regions, sticky rice is packed into bamboo and beans are added before being steamed then barbequed. This makes a great snack and you shoudl try it if you see it along the roadside (usually found in Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces
The Khmer are said to eat anything that moves and one may believe this when one sees that they will eat spiders, ants, crickets and other insects, snakes and frogs. They sound less palatable than what they really are so be adventurous and try some when you see them on the roadside being cooked!
Khmer salads are common for special occasions such as celebrations, parties, weddings and funerals. They are quite different to western salads with many different ingredients often sliced very thinly and always having chicken, fish and/or other seafood (fresh or dry) included
Take a Culinary Tour
Cambodia Uncovered offers culinary tours to persons interested in seeing the food grown, sold, cooked and of course eaten! We offer cooking classes which include a trip to the market to learn about the various vegetables, herbs, preserves and fruit which are in abundance at all markets. Guests can choose from 5 options all of which have three main dishes and one dessert. Recipes and suggestions for substitutes not easily found in your home country are provided
For all our trips outside of Phnom Penh, we prepare fresh food and provide snacks and lunch to our guests. There is always a wide variety and an abundant amount for guests to try. We also stop at road side stalls and offer you the opportunity of sampling the different snacks, drinks, fruits that are available. Food is often regional so what you might find in one province maybe lacking elsewhere
For trips offered within Phnom Penh we will take you to local restaurants that serve good Khmer food. These include restaurants such as Romdeng, Friends, Boat Noodle, Khmer Surin and Knyay. On longer provincial trips we will eat locally and endeavour to find the best variety for you to sample
For those staying with us, Souen can take you to experience the local breakfasts which include Kor Go (mouthwatering delicious beef soup with various spices served with either bread, noodles or rice), clear noodle soup (usually with pork or beef -including liver, kidney etc), 'bobo' the local rice porridge which is often mixed with fish or pork and as with all South East Asian nations, rice with grilled pork or chicken
On all tours, Souen will often point out the various foods that are being grown. You will be surprised when he tells you that the plant you just walked on is used for traditional medicine or used in a famous dish. Khmer eat the leaves of many trees and you will often see these growing by the side of roads and around houses once Souen has pointed them out. Souen will stop at roadside stalls and you may see rice paper for fresh spring rolls being made, ants for sale, sticky rice barbecued in bamboo or stuffed frogs. You will get the chance to try this often regional food so don't be shy, and have a taste!
Visit salt pans in Kep or Kampot and see how the salt is harvested; see the pepper plantations of Kampong Cham or Kampot and try some of the local seafood cooked with green pepper. Visit the seafood market in Kampot or any local market to see the food that is up for sale. Visit the many orchards - mango, papaya, banana, durian, jackfruit, custard apple, cashews. See seaweed farming on Rabbit Island or rice paper for spring rolls being made; watch the rice harvest and then threshed before being milled
When travelling to provinces you will eat the regional specialty if there is one - and often there is. Fish Amok is one of the signature dishes of Cambodia and if you don't cook it during one of our classes, you will be sure to eat it sometime during your stay. Barbeques are also delicious with meat marinated prior to grilling and fish often grilled whole after being stuffed with lemongrass and other herbs
Let us know what you are interested in and we will organise a tour around your interests. Contact us for more information
'......The journey started with an 8 am breakfast of fresh croissants, fresh fruit and yoghurt and freshly brewed coffee and tea in a china teapot: all served on a delightfully set table, including to my amazement china crockery.....The luncheon was even more spectacular, with white napkins adding a touch of class to the wonderful array of home cooked Khmer food. Classic icy cold Australian white wine was served with the food Later that evening, a coal barbeque was lit on the deck for cooking our next amazing meal – chicken stir fry with rice and fresh vegetables. Delicious wine was obligatory again......'
'........We were indulged – great food cooked on board, good wines and drinks and great company......'
'........The informal luncheon consists of local produce and Cambodian dishes and is excellent......'
'........the food was "over the top" delicious......'
'......A delightful meal aboard the boat was an extra unexpected treat served tastefully......'
'.....Souen's food - among the best meals we had on the whole trip......'
'.....The highlight was definitely the cooking class. Full marks......'
'.....completely surprised by cool drinks and a gourmet lunch!......'