It might not be the most famous Asian cuisine, but food and drink in Cambodia is tasty, unique and, perhaps most importantly of all, cheap.
Expect lots of rice and noodles, although unlike some of its South East Asian neighbours, many dishes are not overly spicy, Cambodians instead favouring sour flavours.
Here’s a quick overview of the cuisine in Cambodia.
Food in Cambodia
Don’t expect the usual staples when you’re eating breakfast in Cambodia. A popular breakfast dish is k’tieu, a noodle soup made with pork, beef, or seafood. You might also be served bai sarch ch’rouk, which is rice with barbecued pork.
Some hotels and cafes in Cambodia cater for western tourists and offer more familiar fare. There are also plenty of fruit markets.
Many places will open for breakfast at around 5.30-6am and offer it until around 10am.
Lunch and dinner
Restaurants in Cambodia serve a wide range of traditional dishes. Probably the most well-known is amok, a curry made with coconut milk and served with milk. It can be made with chicken, fish, or shrimp, and will usually involve some vegetables. It’s usually less spicy than similar dishes found in Thailand.
You can also try lok lak (fast-cooked chopped beef made with vegetables), saik ch’rouk cha kn’yei (pork fried with ginger), and k’dam (locally sourced crab).
Major cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have plenty of tourist restaurants, offering popular western foods alongside simpler versions of traditional dishes.
Dessert in Cambodia isn’t the kind of thing you might be used to, but there are plenty of delicious options. Try some sweetmeat mixed with ice, condensed milk, and sugar water, or tuk-a-loc, a drink of blended fruits, raw egg, condensed milk, and ice.
Maybe you’ve thought the stuff until now was unusual, but trust us, there’s some really weird food in Cambodia.
Strangest of all is the pregnant egg, a duck egg with the embryo still inside. Street markets in Cambodia will also sell barbecued rats, frogs, snakes, and bats, as well as fried spiders, crickets, and beetles.
Drink in Cambodia
Tap water in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is safe to drink, although the level of chlorine can make it unpleasant. Generally you’re better off buying bottled water, which is cheap and sold everywhere.
Cambodians take their drinking very seriously. They’re not likely to sit and sip a beer for an hour, rather they’ll drink as hard and fast as possible!
All bars in Cambodia will serve the two most popular domestic beers: Anchor and (confusingly) Angkor. These are both fairly light. You’ll also find plenty of import beers.
In smaller places, often outside of major cities, you’ll find cheap palm wine and rice wine, which is usually cheap, strong, and not very tasty. The safety of these locally brewed liquors is questionable, so always exercise caution.
Probably the most popular soft drink in Cambodia is iced coffee, freshly brewed and mixed with sweetened condensed milk. It’s served any time of day, and you’re bound to see locals sipping it wherever you go. Iced tea is also a popular option.
Fresh coconut is also widely available, safe to drink straight from the fruit and always refreshing in hot weather.