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Khmer Food

Khmer cuisine or more generally, Cambodian cuisine is one of the world's oldest living cuisines. With an emphasis on simplicity, freshness, seasonality and regionalism, Cambodian food has won praise for its elegant and understated use of spice; its harmonious arrangement of contrasting flavours, textures and temperatures within the meal rather than a single dish; and its thoughtful and, at times, extravagant presentation of dishes with plenty of herbs, leaves, pickles, dipping sauces, edible flowers and other garnishes and condiments.

The staple food for Cambodians is rice. Today rice is consumed by most Cambodians daily and with all meals, using a great number of cooking styles and techniques. There are over a hundred words and phrases for rice in the Khmer language as well as hundreds of varieties of indigenous Khmer rice, from the fragrant jasmine-scented malis rice to countless types of wild, brown and sticky rice. Sticky rice is most often consumed as a dessert, often with slices of tropical fruit like mango or durian and coconut milk.

Rice is eaten all day long in the form of street-side snacks, such as deep-fried rice cakes with chives and spinach, for breakfast, as in Cambodia's famous rice noodle soup kuyteav or rice porridge, and in many desserts. Plain white rice is served with nearly every family meal, typically served with grilled freshwater fish, a samlor or soup, and an assortment of seasonal herbs, salad leaves and vegetables.

Khmer cuisine, like its people, has shown remarkable resilience in the face of adversity and challenges. During the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s, Cambodian cuisine was almost wiped out and forgotten. It's only been quite recently that Khmer cuisine has made something of a revival. Living standards have dramatically improved over the last fifteen years, and today several cooking courses are now run in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, and other popular tourist areas, giving visitors the chance to share the culinary secret of the Khmers.