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A cheap and quick way of grabbing a tasty meal, street food is the most popular eating option in Cambodia. No trip to the Kingdom of Wonder is complete without finding a space among the diners on the plastic tables and chairs, often full come breakfast, lunch and dinner. While the potential of food poisoning scares many into avoiding street carts, hedging your bets on the places locals flock to should prevent any dodgy bellies. Here are 10 of the best dishes to try.
A popular breakfast among locals, kuy teav is a noodle soup made from pork or beef bones and rice vermicelli. Fish balls and pork are added, and the dish is topped with bean sprouts, fried shallots and green onions. Definitely not for the faint-hearted, a Phnom Penh take on the soup sees blood, liver, intestine and tongue added into the mix.
Fried in shallow pans by mobile street vendors, num kachay are small chive cakes, made with glutinous rice flour and served with a sweet, spicy fish sauce. You’ll find similar versions of this dish in Thailand, but the recipe is believed to have originated in China.
The smell of this snack tends to attract diners from far and wide, with street vendors grilling the meat on-the-go above hot coals from their portable carts. Usually a common afternoon or evening nibble, sach ko chomkak can be eaten off the skewer, accompanied by pickled papaya salad, or placed into a crunchy baguette.
Fried noodles can be found in abundance across Cambodia in a baffling series of forms, from short and thick to soft egg or instant. Regardless of the different varieties, mi char is a common snack across the Kingdom; adding pork or beef before stir-frying with greens is a popular option.
If you’re squeamish then steer well clear of balut – although this may be tricky, given its popularity among locals. Balut is the fertilised embryo of a duck and it’s eaten whole, usually from the shell. While not typically appealing to a Western audience, balut is famous for being nutritious and rich in protein.
Not specifically reserved for the French, frog is a popular street snack in Cambodia, with vendors often seen carrying whole frogs, skewered on sticks and being barbecued. While the majority of these amphibians are small, they are juicy and tender, and often fried in chilli for a fiery kick.
The street carts with steamers that can be seen lining the pavements of Cambodia are carrying steamed pork buns, a common afternoon treat. The hard-boiled bun is stuffed with pork and egg, and is always best eaten hot.
Found sizzling away in pans of oil, chet chien are the Cambodian version of the Scottish deep-fried Mars bar. Ripe bananas are flattened and dipped into a sweet batter with black sesame seeds and then deep-fried.
Pickled fruit is served by the bucketload on any street throughout Cambodia. Ranging from papaya and apple to cucumber and guava, the snacks are served in a plastic bag, along with a small side bag of dipping sauce made from salt, sugar, chilli and fish sauce.
Pork and rice is one of Cambodia’s national dishes, and is eaten by the masses throughout the day and night. Marinated pork slices are served with a generous portion of rice, alongside a wedge of omelette, pickled veggies and a bowl of broth.