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Catering to sweet-toothed locals, Cambodia’s many puddings and sweet treats are loaded with palm sugar, drenched in condensed milk, slathered in coconut cream, and served with lashings of seasonal fruits. Delicious.
Locals dipping sticks of fruit into a bag of salt and dried chillies is a common sight in Cambodia. The fruit can be unripe and sour, so go easy on the dip as it often has a kick to counterbalance the sour taste. You can buy these treats from street sellers pushing carts or at one of the many fruit stalls.
Mung bean pudding is also available at street stalls. The pudding is traditionally eaten to help cool body temperatures. The dish is best served topped with generous helpings of coconut sauce.
Pumpkin is popular across the country and is a common ingredient in both sweet and savoury dishes. Often reserved for special occasions, pumpkin custard is seen as a treat. This sweet and creamy dessert is best made the day before and left in the fridge overnight to chill.
Sweet sticky rice combined with tart mango is a common dessert in Khmer restaurants. It’s also a popular dish at several of the capital’s cookery classes. Served warm, coconut milk is added into the mix to soften the rice and add to the sweetness.
Cha houy teuk is a sweet jelly dessert made from agar agar – a gelatine derived from seaweed. Served in a range of almost-fluorescent colours – pinks, greens, blues – the jelly is often flavoured with sago, mung beans and coconut cream and served with a scoop of refreshing shaved ice.
Num Chak Kachan is traditionally eaten during Buddhist holidays and comes in a variety of styles and colours. Super sweet, the glutinous treat is made from rice flour, palm sugar and coconut cream. It is steamed to give it its smooth texture.
Num ansom chek is one of the most common desserts in Cambodia. The cakes are particularly popular during the Khmer New Year and Pchum Ben holidays when they are taken to pagodas and given to monks as offerings. The rice cake is filled with bananas to sweeten it up before being wrapped in banana leaves, steamed and served.
Many of the most popular Khmer puddings are sold from mobile street stands. Look out for the crowds of students outside universities and schools, flocked around a stand selling tubs containing everything from sticky rice or sago soaked in coconut milk and topped with red beans, pumpkin, taro or jackfruit (going for around $0.10USD a pop).