Why Visit Cambodia?

January 8, 2020  |  By Peg Kern
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Why Visit Cambodia?

Ancient stone faces of Bayon temple on a culinary tour of CambodiaSome of our clients considering our fabulous Cooking and Culture in Vietnam and Cambodia ask us:

What is there to see in Cambodia?

The answer is that there are many amazing sites to see in Cambodia. The vast majority of today’s Cambodians are “Khmer,” or part of the ethnic group that refers back to the historical Khmer Empire that saw its heyday between the 11th and 13th centuries. This Hindu-Buddhist empire was responsible for building some of Cambodia’s most known temples and archeological sites, including the majestic Angkor Wat, Bavon, and Ta Prohm.

These are just a few of the incredible sites you can see on a culinary tour of Cambodia.

Khmer is a word you’ll hear a lot in reference to Cambodia, describing not only the people, but also the language. And, that brings us to another question we get asked:

Cambodia food called amok on a cooking vacation in Asia

What food will I find in Cambodia?

Usually referred to as Khmer cuisine, you’ll find a delicious version of what you might expect of a Southeast Asian cuisine, with elements that reflect the country’s proximity to Vietnam, China, Thailand, and India. You’ll also find French influences due to Cambodia’s inclusion as part of the French colonial empire, and due to the French culinary influences in Vietnamese cuisine.

Dish of Khmer amok made during a cooking vacation in CambodiaRice is the main ingredient, and that should be no surprise. The landscape is watery – full of rivers and the Tonle Sap lake – which makes rice cultivation and fishing two of the primary forms of food production. The flavors of Khmer cuisine combine sweet, savory, sour, and bitter, and the dishes frequently mix different textures and temperatures – so fresh herbs or leaves and pickled vegetables or edible flowers might be paired with a hot savory dish or soup. You’ll also find fermented sauces and pastes to be a staple of the flavor profile. One thing you won’t generally find is a lot of chiles – Khmer cuisine tends to be less spicy than its neighboring counterparts.

If you’re interested in trying some Khmer cuisine at home, check out our popular recipe for Khmer Fish Amok or Red Curry Chicken.

Trying local street food on a culinary vacation in Southeast AsiaMost meals in Cambodia are multi-course and will include a soup and some stir fry dishes. Rice is always present, although you will also find rice noodles in some dishes. You’ll even have rice and rice noodles for breakfast, whether as the savory rice porridge (bobor) or in any of the savory breakfast dishes such as the very common rice noodles with fish and green curry (nom banh chok) or rice and pork (bai sach chrouk).

For those of you who like Vietnamese cuisine, you’ll be happy to note the similarities – including the presence of the French baguette! If you’re craving a banh mi sandwich, you’ll find them in Cambodia with the name of num pang pâté.

Angkor Wat Temple on a culinary tour of CambodiaAnother question we get asked is: do they really eat insects in Cambodia? Yes, they do. Some say the severe poverty and famine of the Khmer Rouge regime’s rule in the 70’s made any source of food and nourishment up for grabs, including insects. Other sources say that entomophagy (humans using insects as food) is a cultural fact in Southeast Asia and not specific to Cambodia at all. But don’t worry, we won’t make you try any on our trips (unless of course you want to)!

Dancers ready to perform during your culinary tour of Southeast AsiaWhat other questions do you have about traveling to Cambodia? Just let us know in the comments or on social media!

By Peg Kern

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