Cambodia -Culture and Cusine
Cambodia cuisine could be described as Thai food without the heat. They take some of the best qualities of China, India and Thai cuisine and blend them into a unique culinary experience.
Cambodia is in Southeast Asia nestled between Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. Rice has remained a main staple for centuries and is eaten up to three times a day, with noodles being an alternative. The Cambodians like seafood and fish. Beef, pork and chicken are eaten in smaller quantities and are usually sliced or minced and used more as a flavoring. Fruit and fresh vegetables are also widely used as ingredients, as are, lime juice and coconut milk.
Fish sauce and fish paste are also used which give Cambodian food its unique taste. Their favorite spices are Kaffir lime (a type of Lime grown in Eastern Asia), galangal (resembles ginger with a bit of heat), turmeric, garlic, lemon grass, tamarind and ginger which help create a subtle balance of salty, sweet and bitter, making their cuisine one of the most unique in the world. A typical meal consists of soup, salad, main fish dish, vegetables and rice. Desserts are usually based on sticky rice and fresh fruit.
Typical Cambodian Market
Typical Truckload of Cambodian People
Traffic on Road Typical of Third World Country
House in Cambodia
Samlor Machoo Saich Moan
This is a wonderful Cambodian soup with lemon grass and chicken.
- 900 ml (3 3/4 cups) water
- 2 stalks of fresh lemon grass
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 tsp. fish sauce
- 50 g (about 1/3 cup.) rice
- 5 cm fresh galangal or 1 tsp. dried galangal (Find is an Asian grocery store)
- 2 boneless chicken breasts, skinned and diced
- 4 green onions, chopped
- 2 tbsp. freshly chopped basil
- Juice of half a lemon
- Chili paste (to taste)
- 1 tsp. freshly chopped coriander
- 5 Kaffir lime leaves (native to Southern Asia) or 2 tsp. of grated lime peel
Put water, lemon grass, garlic, fish sauce, rice, galangal and pepper in a large saucepan and bring to the boil.
Add the chicken, mixing well and cook for 10 minutes, skimming off any white froth which forms.
Place the spring onions, basil lemon juice, chili paste, coriander and lime leaves in a large serving bowl and mix well.
To serve, pour the soup over the onion mixture in the serving bowl, mix well and serve immediately.
Delicious Fried Rice with Shrimp and more
Asian Shrimp, Fowl, Pork Fried Rice
- 4 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tsp. hot bean paste or hot bean sauce (optional)
- 2 tbsp. cooking oil (olive oil a healthy choice)
- 4 beaten eggs
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 4 medium size garlic cloves chopped very small
- 3/4 cup yellow onion cut into 1/2 inch wedges
- 6 to 8 small green onions cut cross ways in 1/2” pieces
- 3/4 cup baby carrots cut cross ways very thin (you can purchase them shredded in the store which works well and cuts down on time).
- 8 oz. can water chestnuts chopped
- 1 10 oz package of frozen green baby peas thawed
- 1/3 pound lean pork cut into 1/2” pieces (thin chops work well.)
- 1/3 pound boneless skinless chicken breast or tenders, cut into 1/2” pieces.
- 1/2 pound small scrimp pealed and cleaned, more scrimp is sometimes better
- 6 cups cooked rice chilled – Cook the rice early in the day so it cools and can be refrigerated.
- 2 tbsp. snipped cilantro or parsley
- 1 tbsp. lime juice
- Soy sauce
- 1 tomato cut in thin wedges
- 1 cucumber, sliced
In small bowl stir together fish sauce and bean paste. Set aside (this is optional for a spicy fish taste which is the Cambodian type flavor.)
Preheat wok or large skillet over medium high heat.
Add 2 tablespoon cooking oil.
Scramble eggs very lightly, just until they are set, remove from wok and set aside.
Add 2 tbsp. cooking oil to wok, add carrots and water chestnuts, cook for about 2 minutes.
Add pork, chicken, and scrimp, cook until meat starts to change to white texture.
Now add onions, garlic and cilantro stirring lightly.
Add rice to mixture, it will be clumped together so stir well.
Add baby peas and mix well.
At this time add fish sauce and hot bean paste.
Add eggs and mix well.
Cover mixture and cook until hot and steam rises evenly, stirring about every minute.
Spoon meal onto serving plates and place cucumbers and tomatoes around edges.
Garnish with more cilantro if desired.
Use lime and soy sauce to achieve desired taste.
This makes 4 very large servings.
This recipe is fun to play with because you can add other vegetables like snow peas, zucchini sliced thin and so forth. You can also eliminate vegetable is you so choose. We have made this dish many times and it is delicious. It helps if you cut up everything a little earlier in the day, then when you are ready to cook everything is at your fingertips.
Knai Bang Chatt , Kep, Cambodia
Braised Tofu in Spicy Sesame, Peanut Sauce
- 1/2 block of extra firm tofu
- 3 Cloves Garlic
- 1 inch Piece of fresh ginger root, grated
- 2-3 hot chili pepper
- Bell pepper
- 1/2 onion, Cut in to big chunks
- 2 Teaspoons sesame seeds, (Lightly toasted)
- 1.5 Tablespoons chunky peanut butter (Use smooth peanut butter if desired)
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
- Hot sauce, like Sriracha (to taste)
- 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
- 1 1/2 Tsp.oil (any cooking oil)
Dry off thetofu by gently pressing the block with a paper towel. Slice the tofu into rectangles.
Squeeze half the grated ginger to extract the juice & pour the juice over the tofu and let it sit for at least half an hour. The more the tofu marinates the better.
Roughly crush half the amount of the toasted sesame, with a rolling pin or in a mortar & pestle. Set aside.
Mince the garlic and the hot peppers and crush them in the mortar or pestle (or with rolling pin). Set aside.
In a bowl, combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, hot sauce, the crushed sesame, garlic, ginger, hot pepper & salt plus about 1/3 cup of water.
Whisk until well combined. This is going to be the sauce.
Heat 1 Tablespoon of oil in a skillet/pan.
Place the tofu slices in a single layer & cook each side for a couple of minutes at medium heat. Remove & set aside.
Heat the rest of the oil.
Add the chopped onions, broccoli, bell pepper (or any other veggies you desire) and quickly stir fry for a couple of minutes.
Add the tofu slices carefully, so they do not break.
Pour the ingredients for sauce in the pan.
Bring it to a light boil, and then reduce the heat and cover.
Cook for about 2-4 minutes.
Uncover & increase the heat till some of the water in the sauce dries off.
There still will be a few tablespoons of sauce left, enough to cover the tofu and the vegetables and a little bit more.
Garnish with the rest of the sesame seeds & more hot peppers if desired.
Working on Dirt Road
Harvesting Rice Field
Loaded Down Motor Cart
Cambodian people generally are hard working and live a relatively simple life. Eating rice three times a day would be to much for me, but many have no choice and have never lived in another area. Despite the poverty they have some very distinctive recipes; they appear to be basically healthy with their use of vegetables and only small amounts of meat.
Cambodia is a very interesting country with mountains and big valleys where they can harvest three rice crops annually. It would be a very interesting country to visit.
The copyright, renewed in 2018, for this article is owned by Pamela Oglesby. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.