I’ve had Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Indian food, but I had never tried or even heard of Cambodian food. We briefly looked into it before heading there, and read that there wasn’t a lot that wasn’t eaten by the locals! Stories of fried tarantulas and fermented fish paste had me nervous, but as it turned out the food in Cambodia was delicious (with a few stomach churning twists).
Let’s start with the delicious, one of the tastiest meals I’ve had in my life was served in a coconut. Creamy, coconut vegetables with a hint of spice and a side of rice, this was a vegetarian version of a popular Khmer dish (by request). One of the most common meals we ate here was street stand noodles; for one dollar you got a decent sized container of noodles, vegetables, a fried egg, and enough spice to bring tears to your eyes.
Between meals we quenched our thirst with fruit, at least every dozen feet was a fruit stand that sold not only a variety of local fruit but also freshly sliced mango, pineapple or dragon fruit packed neatly into a plastic bag with a long toothpick. Coconuts were sold on every corner and every restaurant, the top was hacked off with a large machette (particularly impressive when chopped up by a small girl) and a straw used to sip on the slightly sweet coconut water inside.
Due to the french influence, baguettes are included with most breakfasts and from many of the street stands that served them with cheese or as sandwhiches. We often saved one of our baguettes from breakfast, the only way we survived a few afternoons when meals were longer apart than we had anticipated. As a vegetarian I had predicted a struggle when it came to meals, but was pleasantly surprised to see that most places offered a solid four dishes without meat that I could eat – fried rice, fried noodles, noodle soup, and fried veggies.
Now what you’ve been waiting for, the weird stuff! We never did see tarantulas, but I did do a double take when I saw a deep fried duck head stand on the street – their bodies were also sold at this stand but it was hard to look at anything but the severed heads. Skewered song birds were also a little disturbing, but the worst experience we had with food was when we accidentally wandered into the meat section of a local market. It felt like a scene from a horror movie – a pile of chicken heads here, stacks of mystery meat there, all shapes and sizes of seafood, and all of the above uncovered in the heat and crawling with flies, often lying on the floor on a plastic bag. I regret to say I have no photos, we stumbleded to the exit as quickly as we could.
Brave , brave Alistair tried grubs and a fried frog one evening but he was showed up by a young local boy who munched on a disgusting delicacy of duck embrio. A chick is allowed to fully delevope inside of the shell and then steamed before hatching, resulting in a tender looking fetus that the young man slurped up. I’m gagging just remembering the sound…ack!
So overall the food in Cambodia is delicious, and if you’re into it you can find some really freaky stuff to munch on.
Throughout Cambodia we discovered really only 3 brands of beer: Cambodia Beer, Anchor, and my personal fave, Angkor, by far the most popular.
Draught beer could be found as cheap as 50 cents a glass, and a can would usually set you back a buck.
With temperatures pushing 40 degrees celcius, an ice cold Angkor will really hit the spot. With only one country under our belt, I already know I’m gonna love this part of the world.