Cambodia Culinary Overview

Cambodia is renowned for its thousands of famous temples scattered throughout the country, along with its unique indigenous Khmer culture. During your journey of exploration, you cannot miss experiencing the culinary delights. 

Before delving into specific dishes, here are some main points about Cambodian cuisine for you to gain an overview about the cuisine of this Southeast Asian country:

  • Cambodian cuisine is a delightful fusion of flavors influenced by its geographical location and historical ties with neighboring countries like Thailand and Vietnam, as well as Chinese and French colonial influences. 

  • This unique gastronomic experience is characterized by the abundant use of spices such as galangal, cilantro, kaffir lime leaves, pepper, turmeric, and chili.

  • The main ingredients in Cambodian cuisine include rice, fish, tropical vegetables, coconut milk, palm sugar, chili peppers, Khmer herbs and spices, and kroeung (a Khmer spice paste).

With the mentioned characteristics, some iconic dishes representing the culinary essence of the country are Fish Amok (creamy fish curry), Beef Lok Lak (beef stir-fry), Khmer Red Curry, Nom Banh Chok (rice noodles), and Bai Sach Chrouk (grilled pork rice).

Best Cambodian food to try

Best Cambodian food to try

In the following sections, we will explore the delightful Cambodian cuisine that is worth experiencing. Let’s discuss the best Cambodian dishes that are guaranteed to excite your palate and create a memorable culinary adventure in this beautiful country.

Must-Try Cambodian Dishes

Fish Amok

Fish Amok - cambodian dishes

Fish Amok is top of the signature Cambodian dishes

Fish Amok or Amok Trei is a Khmer steamed fish curry (amok) with a mousse-like consistency, considered one of Cambodia's national dishes. 

As a quintessential Cambodian dish, Fish Amok is a flavorful and creamy fish curry cooked with fish filets, coconut milk, kroeung (a Khmer spice paste), eggs, and palm sugar. The ingredients are steamed in banana leaf cups or coconut shells, which gives the dish a unique flavor and aroma. It is best enjoyed with steamed rice. 

Fish Amok is priced around $5 to $15. For an authentic experience, head to renowned restaurants like Romdeng and Malis (Phnom Penh) or Khmer Kitchen, Amok Restaurant, and Viroth's Restaurant (Siem Reap).

Samlor Korko

Samlor Korko of Cambodia

The dish Samlor Korko of Cambodia

Originating from the rural provinces, this hearty soup embodies the flavors of the countryside. The name "Samlor Korko" means "stirring soup" in Khmer, and the dish is named for the fact that it is constantly stirred while cooking. 

Samlor Korko is typically made with catfish, pork belly, or chicken, but it can also be made with tofu or vegetables. The vegetables that are used in samlor Korko vary depending on the season, but some common ingredients include eggplant, pumpkin, green beans, and papaya. 

The soup is also flavored with kroeung, a Khmer spice paste that is made with lemongrass, turmeric, garlic, galangal, and other spices. To enjoy Samlor Korko at its best, you can pair it with steamed rice or a side of crusty bread to soak up the flavorful broth. 

To try this dish, you can visit local markets or street food stalls across Cambodia, where you can savor this delightful dish for around $1. In restaurants such as Khmer Kitchen (Siem Reap) and Malis Restaurant (Phnom Penh), the dish can cost around $3 to $5.

Kuy Teav

Kuy Teav is one of best Cambodian dishes

Kuy Teav is one of best Cambodian dishes

Kuy Teav is a Cambodian noodle soup made with rice noodles, pork broth, and a variety of toppings, such as minced pork, fish balls, bean sprouts, and lime. It is a popular breakfast dish in Cambodia, and can be found at street food stalls and restaurants throughout the country. 

The name "Kuy Teav" comes from the Teochew Chinese word "guǒtiáo", which refers to rice noodles. The dish is believed to have originated in Cambodia's Teochew community, and is similar to other noodle soups in Southeast Asia, such as pho in Vietnam and laksa in Malaysia.

To fully relish this dish, accompany it with a side of fresh bean sprouts, lime wedges, and a selection of condiments like fish sauce or chili paste. Kuy Teav is a delicious and hearty soup that is a great way to start your day. 

It is also a relatively inexpensive dish, making it a popular choice. You can find this dish in bustling markets, local street vendors, or renowned eateries like Orussey Restaurant, Kaun Heng Noodle Restaurant, Kuy Teav 60s (Phnom Penh), etc where this delectable bowl of Kuy Teav can cost around $2 to $4. 

Beef Lok Lak

 Cambodian dish - Beef Lok Lak

The Cambodian dish Beef Lok Lak has attractive appearance 

Beef lok lak is a popular stir-fry dish from Cambodia. It consists of thin slices of beef cooked with green peppercorns and a tangy sauce made from fish sauce, lime juice, and garlic. 

The name "lok lak" originates from the Khmer language, where "lok" translates to "shake," referring to the shaking or stirring method used to cook the beef. The dish is normally served with rice.

It is a popular dish in Cambodia, and can be found at restaurants and street food stalls throughout the country. You can try this dish at the price of around $2-5 USD. Some popular places in Cambodia for you to try the dish are Malis Restaurant, Kabb's Restaurant in Phnom Penh or Nary Kitchen and Chanrey Tree  in Siem Reap.

Find out more in our comprehensive guide on travel guide to Cambodia!

Khmer Red Curry

Khmer Red Curry - best cambodian dishes

Khmer Red Curry also served with rice

Khmer Red Curry is a rich, flavorful curry made with coconut milk, chicken, eggplant, green beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and a wonderful red curry paste called kroeung. Its name in Khmer is "Somlar Kari Saek Mouan" which means "red curry with eggplant”. 

Khmer Red Curry is a delicious and flavorful dish that is a great way to experience Cambodian cuisine. It typically costs around $2-5 USD. You can find this dish in many restaurants such as Chanrey Tree or Cuisine Wat Damnak in Siem Reap, Malis in Phnom Penh and many other street side vendors in Cambodia.

Kampot Pepper Crab

Kampot Pepper Crab

The delicious Kampot Pepper Crab is one of the best Cambodian food

Kampot is widely renowned for its large and high-quality pepper plantations. Kampot Pepper Crab is made with fresh crab, Kampot peppercorns, and a simple stir-fry of garlic, soy sauce, and palm sugar. The crab is cooked until it is tender and sweet, and the peppercorns add a subtle heat and citrusy flavor.

Crack open the crab and scoop out the meat with your fingers. The peppercorns will add a bit of a kick, so be sure to eat the crab with some rice or noodles to help relieve your mouth.

There are many places to eat Kampot Pepper Crab in Cambodia, but some of the best places include Kampot Seafood & Pepper in Kampot town and The Crab Kitchen in Kep town. Actually, Kep is a Cambodia coastal city that is very famous for its crab. On the beach of Kep, there is indeed a crab statue welcoming visitors to this place.

The price of Kampot Pepper Crab varies depending on the restaurant, but it typically costs around $5-10 USD.

Bai Sach Chrouk

Bai Sach Chrouk Cambodia dish

A hearty portion of Bai Sach Chrouk Cambodia dish

Bai Sach Chrouk refers to a dish comprising grilled pork served with rice and accompanying side ingredients. The pork is seasoned with a combination of garlic, fish sauce, and coconut milk, and then grilled to achieve a crispy exterior and tender interior. 

The usual accompaniments for this dish include pickled vegetables (carrots and daikon radish), along with a dipping fish sauce.

You can mix the pork, rice, and pickled vegetables together. You can then dip the mixture in the dipping sauce, or you can eat each of them plain. Streetside vendors are a great place to try Bai Sach Chrouk, as they often offer it at very affordable prices. It typically costs around $1-2 USD. There is a popular restaurant in Phnom Penh that serves this dish called Bai Sach Chrouk at Vimol Thoam Thong Street.

Num Banh Chok

Num Banh Chok - what to eat in cambodia

Enjoy the dish of Num Banh Chok

This Cambodian dish is made with lightly-fermented rice noodles. The rice noodles are served cold and topped with a fish curry made from catfish or snakehead fish, kroeung (a Cambodian curry paste), coconut milk, and various herbs and vegetables. The dish is typically garnished with banana blossom, cucumber, mint, and basil.

When eating the dish, you mix the rice noodles, fish curry, and vegetables together. Num Banh Chok is also a popular dish in Cambodia, thus you can find it in many eateries along the country. Num Banh Chok also has reasonable prices around $1-2 USD. 

Lap Khmer

lap khmer - best cambodian dishes

Lap Khmer is a blend of intriguing aromas

Lap Khmer is a delicious Cambodian dish made by combining minced beef, pork, or fish with a blend of aromatic herbs and spices. This mixture is traditionally seasoned with kroeung, a Cambodian curry paste, as well as lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, turmeric, garlic, and chili peppers. 

After the meat is thoroughly mixed with these flavorful ingredients, it is then grilled until it is cooked and develops a slight char. Lap Khmer is commonly served with rice or noodles, accompanied by a dipping sauce.

The price of Lap Khmer varies depending on the restaurant, but it typically costs around $1-2 USD. The dish can be found in many Cambodia streetside vendors, markets, and restaurants such as Malis in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap Noodles.

Some Tips for Foodie

 tips when you explore best Cambodian dishes

Some tips when you explore best Cambodian dishes

Exploring cuisine in a country is an exciting real-life experience that goes beyond the taste. Here are some handy tips from us when you jump on a culinary journey in Cambodia:

  • Try new things: Food is a reflection of the country, culture, and people of the place you visit. You will discover a lot more about Cambodia behind the delicious dishes in front of you, such as the fusion of local cuisine with cuisines from neighboring cultures, or when you discover that Kampot pepper truly lives up to its famous quality!

  • Places to explore Cambodian cuisine are local markets, streetside vendors, and restaurants. To find out more about safe and quality dining spots, you can ask your friends for recommendations or inquire with the hotel staff where you are staying.

  • If you choose a local eatery, learn a few local words about the dishes and how to order them. Here are some Khmer words you can try yourself:

  • Chom reap sour (Hello - formal)

  • Arkun (Thank you)

  • Tae khnhom ach mean meunouy ban te? (Can I have the menu, please?)

  • Tae anak nung nenam avei? (What would you recommend?)

  • Khnhom chng mean… (I would like to have…)

  • Chhnganh (Delicious)

  • Mhoub chhnganh nasa (The food was delicious)

  • Som ket loy (The bill please)

  • Bo man (How much?)

  • If you have more time and want to delve deeper, consider joining a cooking class in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, or Battambang. Programs like these usually last for 2-3 hours and cost from $10 to $50 USD per person, including visiting local markets for ingredients and try purchasing, cooking with locals, dining at their homes, and enjoying drinks.

Cambodia street food

Cambodia street food scene

On the journey to explore world cuisine, Cambodia is also an interesting culinary destination. You will be fascinated by the street food and local dishes along with the country's renowned temples. You will also discover the unique local flavors of Khmer cuisine, as well as the blending and similarities with the cuisine of surrounding countries. Feel free to let us know your favorite dishes in Cambodia and any other recommendations you highly recommend in the comments section below. And if you want to explore Vietnam and Cambodia, don't hesitate to contact us for more details!