It’s no secret that the dining tables of Thailand and Vietnam are home to some of the finest food in the world, so it should come as no surprise to discover that Cambodian cuisine is also rather special. Unlike the culinary colossuses that are its neighbours, the cuisine of Cambodia is not that well known in international circles, but all that looks set to change. Just as Angkor has put Cambodia on the tourist map, so too amoc (baked fish with coconut, lemon grass and chilli in banana leaf) could put the country on the culinary map of the world.
Cambodia has a great variety of national dishes, some similar to the cuisine of neighbouring Thai land and Laos, others closer to Chinese and Vietnamese cooking, but all come with that unique Cambodian twist, be it the odd herb here or the odd spice there. The overall impression is that Khmer cooking is similar to Thai cooking but with fewer spices.
Freshwater fish forms a huge part of the Cambodian diet thanks to the natural phenomenon that is Tonle Sap Lake, and they come in every shape and size from the giant Mekong catfish to teeny, tiny whitebait, which are great beer snacks when deep-fried. The French left their mark too, with baguettes becoming the national bread and Cambodian cooks showing a healthy reverence for tender meats.
Cambodia is a crossroads in Asia, the meeting point of the great civilisations of India and China, and just as its culture has drawn on both, so too has its cuisine. Whether it’s spring rolls or curry that take your fancy, you will find them both in Cambodian cooking. Add to this a world of dips and sauces to complement the cooking and a culinary journey through Cambodia becomes as rich a feast as any in Asia.