Chopstick Cinema

Celeste Heiter's Adventures in Asian Food & Film

Getting Acquainted with Cambodian Cuisine

Having spent the better part of an evening researching Cambodian cuisine and recipes, it appears that when it comes to Cambodian food...anything goes. The bounty of ingredients in typical Cambodian dishes includes nearly every kind of vegetable, meat and seafood imaginable. Spices and condiments are consistent with other Southeast Asian cuisines, including Asian fish sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, coconut, lime, mint, corriander, basil, lemongrass, chili peppers, kafir lime leaves, curry powder, and sesame oil, just to name a few.

A dish called Amok Trei, seasoned fish or meats steamed in banana leaf parcels, is considered by some to be the national dish of Cambodia.

Appetizers (Mahope-Sra) include spring rolls, both fresh and deep fried, grilled chicken wings, skewered meats, dumplings, frog legs, fried seafoods, and fish cakes.

Soups (Salor) tend to be broth-based, such as hot and sour, or savory stews, featuring a seemingly endless variety of vegetables such as winter melon, spinach, taro root, cabbage, mushrooms, as well as all kinds of meats and seafoods. And Rice Soup (Bor-Bo), is a traditional favorite.

Salads (Nhoam and Lap) are often topped with meats or marinated seafoods.

There are an infinite number of Stir-fry combinations (Char), many of which are categorized as Caramelized (Kho).

Deep-fried dishes (Chien) are popular and widely varied, as are steamed dishes (Chamhoy), boiled dishes (Sngo), grilled meats and fish (Dot), as well as those that are baked or broiled (Ang).

Fried Rice (Bai Lieng) and Fried Noodles or Noodle Soups (Num Pa-Chok, Mee, Katiev Char) are everyday staples.

Many dishes are served with tangy dipping sauces (Tirk Salouk), which are made with lime juice and fish sauce, seasoned with ginger, chili peppers, garlic and other seasonings.

Desserts often take the form of puddings and custards, made with coconut and fresh fruits.

With all these tempting ingredients and preparation methods to choose from, the hardest part of my Cambodian dinner is definitely going to be choosing between them without getting completely carried away.