The cuisine that immediately comes to mind when we mention South East Asia is Thai food from Thailand, Sushi from Japan and Ramen Noodles but no one talks about Khmer cuisine from Cambodia. In fact how many of you can think of restaurants serving Khmer food in other countries??
I asked myself this question and came up with zero as an answer. Right before leaving for Siem Reap my husband and I religiously went grocery shopping and purchased a carton full of Kind bars, packets full of nuts and also packed some traditional Indian pickles ( you see we need Indian food at least three times a week no matter which corner of the world we are in.. ) just to be safe because we knew nothing about Khmer food.
Our internet research told us that there were a lot of Indian restaurants in Siem Reap and also a number of vegetarian restaurants but truth to be told we were very skeptical about the quality and taste and hence the last minute grocery shopping!!
We played it safe for the first day by eating only at our hotel and tried the Khmer food and were completely put off by it. The food lacked taste, was oily and just not palatable. We were very disappointed as our hotel had very good reviews on Trip advisor.
On the second day after a tour of the temples, we decided to venture out and try our luck. To say that we were surprised would be an understatement, we were blown away by the food and the tons of options that Khmer cuisine had for vegetarians.
Here is the list of food(s) that everyone who visits Siem Reap (Cambodia) must try irrespective of whether vegetarian or non-vegetarian:
1.Wedding Day Dip: Yes you read it right, this dish is called as Wedding day dip and I am not too sure why it got that name, but I could’nt care less about the origin of the name. The mere mention of the wedding day dip is bringing tears to my eyes as I already miss it!!
Wedding day dip is a puree made of peanuts, mushrooms, garlic and ginger. Its heavenly and can be eaten just by itself or with any kind of bread or vegetable sticks.
My suggestion is to order one per person otherwise there are high chances of a war at the table!!
2.Amok Puffs: These are pastry shells filled with vegetables cooked in traditional amok style and served with any kind of sauce. We had puffs that were served with a delicious sauce made of bell peppers.
3.Green mango salad: This is the most delicious salad that I’ve ever had in my life and while I was there I had it every single day.
Its made of fresh grated green mango, bell peppers, basil and garnished with peanuts. I might be missing out some other ingredients but these are the basic ones. Unfortunately I do not have a picture for this one as every single time I just had to eat it and there was no time left for pictures 🙂
4.Tofu stuffed with pumpkin and caramelized onions: I am not a huge fan of tofu as I have a problem with the texture and smell but this tofu dish was irresistible. Blocks of tofu stuffed with the most delicious pumpkin curry and onions garnished with tangy tamarind sauce; this dish is to die for. Another one of my favorites.
5.Traditional Cassava fritters: Crispy Cassava fritters made with yellow curry paste are delicious but can be quite heavy to eat.
6.Fried Ice cream: This dish was my go to dessert after every single meal. This is a must try dish on Pub street where you will find vendors every few meters selling anywhere between 10 to 25 flavors of fried ice cream rolls that too made fresh right in front of your eyes. It is a feast to watch while the vendors swiftly chop the fruits, mix it with milk and roll them up neatly and place them one after the other in the container all for 2 dollars.
There are several combinations that can be tried and you will fall short of days to try all the flavors available. They also are vegan friendly as most vendors have coconut milk as an option too!!
Don’t miss this at all while there!!
They even have ice cream from fresh aloe vera and it was delicious too!! It was so delicious that I don’t have a picture of it 🙂
These are some of my favorite dishes from Khmer cuisine. Have you tried any of them? What are your favorites??