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Profile of Cambodian Cooking and Culture

Cambodian Cooking and Culture

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Cambodian food is a charming combination of strong and vibrant flavors. Cambodians like to make sure that there is a little of the salty, the sour, the sweet and the bitter in every meal.

Khmer cuisine is gaining interest in many countries, with some people forecasting that it will become the New Thai, i.e. the next cuisine from the Southeast Asia region to enchant the world. It is, in fact, quite similar to Thai food but without the spiciness.

Influences

Cambodian cuisine draws from the great civilizations of China and India and is also influenced by neighboring Vietnam and Thailand. There are also traces of French inspiration from the time when Cambodia was part of French Indochina. Baguette or the long French bread, for instance, has come to be Cambodia’s national bread and it is common to find sandwiches made from baguette in Cambodia.

The Chinese left the legacy of stir-frying; while curry dishes that employ dried spices such as star anise, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and fennel were borrowed from the Indians and given a distinctive Cambodian twist with the addition of local ingredients like lemongrass, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, shallots and galangal. When blended together, the resulting paste is called a kroeung and is used widely in Cambodian cooking. Coconut is also a popular ingredient in Cambodian curries.

Popular Cambodian Cuisine

Spring rolls made from rice paper are a popular snack in Cambodia where they are usually stuffed with fresh vegetables including carrots, lettuce leaves, beansprouts and all sorts of herbs like mint leaves, Asian basil, cilantro and spring onions or scallions.

Just as in Thailand and Laos, fermented fish paste, or pra hoc in local parlance, is a popular ingredient and adds a unique flavour to Cambodian cooking. The country is rich with both freshwater and saltwater fish, both of which are plentiful in Cambodia with its rich network of waterways and ocean, including the Mekong River, the Tonle Sap Lake and the Gulf of Thailand. It is no wonder then that, just as in Laos, fish forms the main source of protein for the Cambodians.

Rice is the staple diet in Cambodia and as with all the Southeast Asian cuisines, a Cambodian meal is best enjoyed when shared with others.

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