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Cambodia Eat & Drink

Khmer food is tasty and cheap and is invariably accompanied by rice (or occasionally noodles). And unlike its Thai and Lao neighbours, Cambodians generally do not have a taste for spicy hot food, and black pepper is the preferred choice in cooking instead of chilli peppers which are usually served on the side.
Typical Khmer dishes include:

  • Amok – Arguably the most well known Cambodian dish. A coconut milk curried dish less spicy than those found in Thailand. Amok is usually made with chicken, fish, or shrimp, plus some vegetables. It is sometimes served in a hollowed-out coconut with rice on the side. Quite delicious.
  • K’tieu (Kuytheav) – A noodle soup generally served for breakfast. Can be made with pork, beef or seafood. Flavorings are added to the customers taste in the form of lime juice, chili powder, sugar and fish sauce.
  • Somlah Machou Khmae – A sweet and sour soup made with pineapple, tomatoes and fish.
  • Bai Saik Ch’rouk – Another breakfast staple. Rice (bai) with pork meat (sec trouk) often barbequed. Very tasty and served with some pickled vegetables.
  • Lok lak – Chopped up beefsteak cooked quickly. Probably a holdover from the days of French colonization. Served with a simple dipping sauce made from lime juice and black pepper, lettuce, onion, and often with chips.

Don’t forget Khmer desserts – Pong Aime (sweets). These are available from stalls in most Khmer towns and can be excellent. Choose from a variety of sweetmeats and have them served with ice, condensed milk and sugar water. A must try is the Tuk-a-loc, a blended drink of fruits, raw egg, sweetened condensed milk and ice.

Drink
The tap water supply in Phnom Penh has undergone some serious changes at the hands of a “water revolutionary” in the government, Ek Sonn Chan. So in Phnom Penh you can drink the tap water without problem, although it is highly chlorinated and you may not like the taste. Also there is some concern about the bottle water vendors. The U.S. Embassy web site says that “In 2008, Cambodia’s Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy reported that more than 100 bottled- water companies in Cambodia were being considered for closure for failing to meet minimum production quality standards. Only 24 of the 130 bottled-water companies are compliant with the ministry’s Department of Industrial Standards.” That page seems to be down on bottled water generally, so take it with a grain of salt.
Outside of Phnom Penh (and perhaps Siem Reap) you should assume that tap water is not potable. Khmer brand water in blue plastic bottles sell for 1000 riels or less (although prices are often marked up for tourists, to 50 cents or a dollar).

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