A taste of ancient Khmer cuisine
Wanderlust Travel Magazine|September/October 2021
Once home to the mighty Khmer Empire, it should come as no surprise that Cambodia has a culinary culture – centred around award-winning rice and freshwater fish – that’s as mouthwatering as anything its larger neighbours have to offer
Nick Ray

Cambodia was an important crossroads on the ancient Maritime Silk Road that connected India and China via modern-day Malaysia and Indonesia. This is why visitors discover so many diverse flavours blended into its unique culinary palette, ranging from aromatic curries to fresh spring rolls with a sprinkling of Gallic influence along the way.

Freshwater fish makes up a significant element of the Cambodian diet thanks to the natural phenomenon that is the Tonlé Sap lake, the largest in South-East Asia. Together with the Mekong River, the endless waterways of the kingdom deliver a bountiful catch that is fermented into prahoc (fish paste), a vital ingredient of many regional dishes. This is complemented by a creative combination of earthy roots, holistic herbs and aromatic tubers that give the soups, salads and stews their unique twist, distinct from the culinary heavyweights of Thailand and Vietnam.

Rice is the main staple of the national diet and Cambodia’s Malys Angkor fragrant rice has won the World’s Best Rice award several times in the past decade. Rice is so central to the diet that it gives us the Khmer word for ‘eating’: nyam bai, or literally ‘eat rice’.

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