We absolutely loved Cambodian food! I had read that the food in Cambodia was going to be nice but not as good as in Thailand. To me, the food we had during our three days in Cambodia by far superseded the food we had during our two weeks in Thailand!
Cambodia shares many dishes with its neighbors, there’s Vietnamese noodle soup and tangy Thai salads and sour soups, Indian-inspired curries, Chinese noodles and stir fries and from Cambodia’s days as a French colony, there’s a fondness of coffee and baguettes. Everything is available from street vendors and roadside street food stalls. Motorbikes and tuk tuks have little kitchens attached to the side where they cook up the most amazing array of Cambodian foods. I had never seen so many uses for a motorbike before!
We started off with the touristy things that was offered up on the streets of Siem Reap shortly after arrival. Just because it was there and we had to try it. Scorpion, tarantula, cricket, grub and snake. With tarantula hair still sticking to the insides of our mouth we set off to find a stall with cold beer and ended up eating some spicy grilled chicken by the roadside with the locals. There was a delicious jug of homemade chili sauce on the table, made from lemongrass, chili, fish sauce and lime. Even the chicken satay were more flavoursome than any I’ve ever had before. The peanut sauce was courser and more citrusy than a classic satay sauce and so moreish.
We started the next morning with the Khmer Bor Bor soup; a delicious version of rice soup with mushrooms and beansprouts, fried garlic and shallots, lime and chicken or fish. After that, a wee village snack at our first destination that day, Mount Koulen or lychee mountain. It was hot and we needed cooling so the sour slices of green mango and unripe banana with a bright red paste of pound chilli, sugar, a little salt and a dash of fish sauce tasted delicious.
We continued with flattened, battered and deep fried bananas, coconut pancakes, little baby prawn pankcakes and more fresh fruit. We had dinner in a Khmer restaurant and sampled some stir fried morning glory, curry amok and stir fried chicken dishes with asian basil. Fish or chicken amok is a Khmer curry made with coconut and a paste of fresh ginger, turmeric, garlic, galangal, lemongrass, chili and kaffir lime leaves. On our way back to Siem Reap in the evening after a full day’s temple exploring we stopped by the roadside to try sweet sticky rice with coconuts and black beans, grilled inside a bamboo tube. So visually beautiful as they stood there on a row next to the fire. Each road side stall in that village sold the same dish. It was the same in every village; one or two dishes per village. The next village specialised in frogs. A lady sat under the tamarind tree as her son tended to the bbq. She was skewering chicken innards and feeling happy about the world. I had never had frog before and I wanted to try it. Chopped up frog meat mixed with garlic, ginger and lemongrass had been stuffed into the skin from the thighs of the frog and grilled like a frog sausage. Absolutely delicious, even our 9 year old munched it down like it was ice cream on a hot day. It was served on a silver platter with a spicy tamarind paste. -From here! the lady pointed and laughed. -From my tree!
And there we sat with her as the sun started to go down; under her tamarind tree and ate the frogs her son had caught that morning. Feeling really quite happy with the world.