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With food carts offering a plethora of tasty street foods occupying every corner, Phnom Penh is an excellent destination for food lovers wishing to enjoy a culinary adventure. Here we take a look at the city’s must-try items that are sure to get your taste buds tingling!
Travelers must try this authentic Khmer street food at least somewhere in Cambodia. The renowned snack is prepared by cooking fish moose with coconut curry in banana leaves. In order to build layers of flavor, a wide selection of spices such as lemongrass, kaffir lime and turmeric root are added. Although fish amok can also be found in neighboring countries, one unique feature of Cambodian fish amok is the use of the local herb slok ngor, which adds a distinct and bitter flavor to the dish.
Drawn by the mouth-watering aromas of this snack, travelers can easily spot portable carts with grilled pork on skewers everywhere in Phnom Penh. Usually there are two kinds of skewers, one served with pickle salad with piles of veggies together with rice, and another loaded with herbs and condiments. The former is a prominent breakfast that gives locals a boost of energy for the day, while the latter is a popular on-the-go snack. Try both for a complete experience of a Cambodian BBQ.
This classic Southeast Asian treat has its roots in Vietnam. However, once lok lak landed in Cambodia, it became overwhelmingly popular. One possible reason is the juicy beef – a favourite local meat – that comes in colossal portions. This stir fried meat is typically topped with a salad of sweet tomato, crispy lettuce, raw cucumber and fresh onion, all served seasoned with lime juice and black pepper. Travellers can opt for the traditional way of eating – wrapped up in a lettuce leaf in the way of classic Cambodian culture.
Balut refers to the fertilized embryo of a duck. This snack can be found in neighboring Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines and Vietnam, but the one in Cambodia is kept simple: instead of being covered with a wide selection of herbs and condiments, only a little ganish is served alongside the duck egg. It is an all time favorite of local Cambodians as it is nutritious and rich in protein.
Whenever travellers come across a moving cart with a steamer, it is time for a steamed pork bun! The hard-boiled bun stuffed with eggs and pork encapsulates the traditional taste of Cambodia without adding any twist to the ingredients or unnecessary condiments. Although travellers always compare it with pork buns in China, the plain taste makes it a more easy-going afternoon snack. Don’t forget to remove the paper padding at the bottom before giving it a bite and never leave it go cold!
Cambodia is the land for pickled fruit, where travellers are able to find all kinds of pickled snacks including papaya, jujube, apple, cucumber and guava. Fresh fruit is also available for sale in the stalls. Travellers can always get a small bag of sauce that blends sugar, salt, chillies and other seasoning to dip the fruit in, while the the sweet, sour and subtly spicy flavor makes for fantastic finger food between meals.
Barbecued food is famous all over Southeast Asia and Cambodia is no exception. Grilled sausage on skewer is one of the most recognizable street foods in the country. Most foodies may link sausages to saltiness, but sausages in Phnom Penh are no ordinary meat treat. The sweet and tender taste of the small sausage balls here impresses travellers all over the world, while the salad and baguette on the side makes for a perfect compliment to the fatty taste of the grill.
The idea of consuming frogs can be a little uneasy for travellers to grasp at first, but everyone will adapt to it after staying in Phnom Penh for a few days! Besides pork, chicken and beef, sometimes visitors can see a whole frog on the skewers of barbecue carts in the capital, which is actually a renowned street food in Cambodia. The taste of frogs is said to be juicy and tender, similar to that of chicken – of course!
Coffee in Southeast Asia is made unique by its sweetness. Unlike coffee found elsewhere, coffee here is a bit sweet as the beans are slowly roasted after drying in the sun to preserve the sugars and oils. The signature iced coffee with milk in Phnom Penh is prepared by adding condensed milk. Foodies can control the degree of sweetness by stirring the condensed milk at the bottom of the glass.
Chive cake is another renowned Cambodian street food originating from China. Putting aside heavy seasoning and piles of herbs, the main ingredients are simply rice flour with chopped chives. However, instead of being plain and boring, the taste is surprisingly delicious. The pan-fried snack is crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside and is usually dipped in sweet and spicy fish sauce to deliver an identifiable Southeast Asian flavor.