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Cambodia’s compact size means dishes are available nationwide and not necessarily isolated to one area, making it a foodies’ haven. With so many dishes to try — from the flavoursome to the weird and wonderful — here are some of the best places to sample truly authentic Cambodian cuisine.
Another national favourite comes in the form of nom banh chok, or Khmer noodles — a rice noodle dish that is served with fish broth or chicken curry, cucumbers, bean sprouts, banana blossom flowers, water lily stems, basil and mint. While it’s typically a breakfast dish, it’s also eaten as an afternoon snack, with women flogging bowls of it served fresh on the street from buckets hanging off poles balancing on their shoulders. Prevalent throughout the country, the noodles are laboriously made in the provinces by hand with regional variations available. For example, in Kampot, the dish includes locally-produced sweet dried shrimp, coconut cream and peanuts. In Siem Reap, more garlic and coconut milk is used. A good spot to sample nom banh chok is at Preah Dak village in the Banteay Srei District of Siem Reap. Here, you’ll find a whole street with stalls serving up the authentic local dish.
Where to try it: Nam Ben Chok Noodle, Road 810, Preah Dak Village, Preah Dak Commune, Banteay Srei District, 67, Preah Dak, Cambodia, +855 (0)12 410770
At 3am daily, the day starts for Kratie’s swathe of sticky bamboo rice makers as they set to work on creating the popular savoury snack that is devoured across the country. By 6am, vendors line the province’s roads, selling the cylindrical bamboo cones to middle-men, who sell them to the markets. Kralan is a common sight throughout Cambodia and is made of sticky rice and red beans soaked in coconut milk before being stuffed in bamboo. The bamboo is then cooked over a charcoal or wood fire for several hours before the sticky and sweet snack is ready to be served. This snack is commonly sold on the streets and at markets.
Where to try it: at any local market in Cambodia
Arachnophobes out there might want to give this popular Cambodian snack a miss because you read that right — deep-fried tarantula. Cambodians love treating themselves to a crunchy eight-legged friend, regardless of the time of the day. While street sellers can be found flogging them across Cambodia, Skun is where the majority of the critters hail from. This small town in between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is where locals head into the jungle to catch the spiders and defang them with their bare hands, before selling them as deep-fried dishes, usually eaten with chopped chillies and garlic. Yum.
Where to try it: Riverside, Preah Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, Cambodia or Pub Street, Street 08, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia. Vendors can commonly be found at Phnom Penh and in Siem Reap.
Kampot’s fertile soil not only makes it the prime spot for growing pepper, but also durian. In fact, Kampot is so proud of its durian production, a roundabout featuring this giant fruit is the town’s focal point. As the Marmite of fruit — you either love it or hate it — durian has a bad rap among Westerners, thanks to its putrid stink. In fact, some hotels and bus companies have banned it from their premises because it smells so bad. Regardless of whether you like it, it’s a popular fruit across Southeast Asia, and it is pretty pricey too.
Where to try it: Follow your nose around any market to stumble across the fruit.