The capital of Cambodia, is not just a city to be seen but tasted— an eclectic array of food dishes lies nestled amidst the architectural marvels and vibrant streetscapes of Phnom Penh

This revered destination invites travellers to embark on a culinary journey where history, culture, and flavour converge. At the heart of Cambodian meals is rice, served with an array of dishes that feature fresh herbs, aromatic spices, and a harmonious balance of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter tastes. Fish and seafood, sourced from the Mekong River and Tonle Sap Lake, are central to many dishes, with prahok, a fermented fish paste, adding a unique depth of flavor. The cuisine showcases a diverse range of noodle dishes, curries, and stews, often incorporating coconut milk for richness. Cambodian dishes are very similar to Thai cuisine, but contain much less chilli and sugar, and more aromatic spices. 

Let’s take a look at the popular dishes in Cambodia which might just become your next favourite dish.



1. Bai Sach Chrouk (pork and rice)

Known for its simplicity and flavour, Bai Sach Chrouk (pork and rice) is a popular breakfast dish in Cambodia, particularly in Phnom Penh.

It consists of pork that has been marinated in palm sugar and fish sauce, then grilled slowly over warm coals, giving it a distinctive smoky and sweet taste. The grilled pork is then thinly sliced and served over white rice. 

Accompanying the dish are pickled cucumbers and radish with ginger, adding a refreshing and tangy contrast to the savoury pork. A bowl of chicken broth, garnished with scallions and fried onions, is often served alongside to complete the meal.

This breakfast staple is commonly found at street corners and is appreciated for its balanced, hearty, and flavourful characteristics, making it a must-try for anyone looking to explore the authentic culinary scene of Phnom Penh.

2. Kuyteav (Noodles with soup)

Kuyteav, with its harmonious mix of herbs and meats submerged in a soul-warming broth, is a beloved and iconic breakfast choice in Phnom Penh.

Originating from the Teochew Chinese, Kuyteav is a noodle soup made of rice noodles immersed in a clear, flavourful pork stock, adorned with an array of toppings. Its distinctiveness lies in the blend of savoury and slightly sweet undertones, creating a comforting and flavourful morning meal. 

Kuyteav can be enjoyed “wet”, with all ingredients immersed in the soup, or “dry”, where the soup is served on the side, akin to a noodle salad. The latter allows diners to dictate the flavour intensity, adding a personalised touch to the dining experience.

3. Num Banhchok (Khmer noodles)

Prefer a heavier breakfast? Nom Banhchok is your go-to Cambodian food then, with its lightly fermented rice noodles that are both satisfying and flavourful.

Num Banhchok is celebrated for its variety. Different regions across Cambodia, you will find distinct versions of this beloved dish, each reflecting the local palate and available ingredients. 

For instance, Num Banhchok Samlor Proher is a classic variation featuring the signature rice noodles served in a flavourful broth, while Num Banhchok Kampot originates from Kampot and is known for its use of peanuts, dried shrimp, and the renowned Kampot fish sauce.

The popularity of Num Banhchok isn’t just restricted to its taste but is also woven into the cultural fabric of Cambodia through folklore. 

A popular Khmer folk legend narrates the story of Thon Chey, a revolutionary and scholar who made a living by making Num Banhchok in China after being exiled. The dish’s popularity soared, capturing even the Chinese emperor’s attention.


4. Samlor Korkor (Cambodian soup)

Those acquainted with the country's rich gastronomic landscape will point towards Samlor Korkor as Cambodia's true national dish.

Samlor Korkor is known for its adaptability. Its recipe can incorporate a wide range of seasonal vegetables. The dish also isn’t limited to a specific type of meat, but it’s typically made from pork belly and catfish. However, two ingredients central to Cambodian cuisine— prahok (fermented fish) and kroeung (curry paste)—are always present, giving this food its distinctive taste. Toasted ground rice is also added to thicken the soup, offering a fuller texture and a subtle, nutty flavour. The rich and aromatic soup is often served alongside rice or rice noodles. 

As a lunch option, Samlor Korkor not only provides a hearty and nourishing meal but also showcases the depth and complexity of Cambodian culinary traditions.

5. Num Pang (Cambodian sandwich)

Amongst the city’s street foods, Num Pang, a Cambodian sandwich reminiscent of the French baguette yet distinctly local in its fillings, stands as a testament to the city’s culinary evolution. It features a short, crispy baguette with an airy texture, reminiscent of its French counterpart.

The versatility of Num Pang is showcased in its diverse variations. Num Pang Pâté boasts a rich layer of pâté and cold cuts, complemented by mayonnaise, pickled carrots, radish, cucumbers, and fresh herbs. 

Num Pang Brahet is another popular variant, featuring pork meatballs amid a colourful mix of mayonnaise, pickled vegetables, salad, and herbs, a favourite in Siam Reap. For seafood enthusiasts, Num Pang Trey Khaw offers fish simmered in tomato sauce, harmoniously blended with mayonnaise, pickled carrots, papaya, cucumber, and fresh herbs.

6. Kha trei svay kchai (Caramelised fish with green mango salad)

For those seeking to immerse themselves in the authentic Cambodian culinary landscape, consider the Kha Trei Svay Kchai that marries sweet, savoury, and sour in a dance of flavours. 

The main ingredients include fish steaks, palm sugar for caramelisation, garlic for an aromatic touch, and fish sauce to enhance the savoury notes. Red tomatoes are added to the mix, offering a hint of acidity and freshness, while ground black pepper lends a mild heat to the overall flavour.

The dish is completed with a topping of sliced green mango, introducing a sour element that cuts through the sweetness of the palm sugar and the savoury notes of the fish sauce. The result is a balanced, flavourful salad dish that showcases the simplicity and elegance of Cambodian food.


6. Prahok Ktis (Creamy prahok dip)

Central to this dish is prahok, a type of salty fermented fish that's a cornerstone in many Cambodian meals, known for adding an umami touch.

In Prahok Ktis, the pronounced flavour of prahok is mellowed and enriched by a blend of coconut cream and palm sugar. Minced pork is also mixed in, lending the dish added substance and savouriness. The result is a creamy, flavourful dip that is a favourite among locals and visitors alike.

There’s also a variant called Prahok Kroeung Ktis, where a spice paste made from roots adds another layer of aroma and taste to the mix. The dish balances the strong flavours and creates a richer taste profile.

Prahok Ktis is typically served with an array of fresh, crunchy vegetables, offering a crisp, refreshing contrast to the creamy dip. 

Have it as a snack during teatime when those hunger pangs strike!

7. Kangkep baob (Stuffed frogs)

For those unacquainted with Cambodian food, the sight of grilled stuffed frogs can be interesting. Yet, any reservations you have will be quickly dispelled upon the first bite. 

The outer layer, crisped to perfection, gives way to a juicy, flavourful interior where the medley of ingredients comes to life. The root spices lend an earthy depth, the chilies add a kick of heat, and the palm sugar imparts a delicate sweetness, making Kangkep Baob a balanced and delightful snack.

You can easily find it at roadside barbecues all over Phnom Penh.


8. Chrouk krao Chhnang (Out of the pot soup)

Chrok Krao Chhnang is typically served with steamed rice. Literally translating to “out of the pot”, the distinctiveness of Chrok Krao Chhnang lies in its unique preparation, which you guessed it – out of the pot. The chef simply gathers all the ingredients  in a container and pour the boiling water inside to make broth.  Typically, the main ingredient is fish or anchovies, topped with boiled egg, tomatoes, cucumbers and shallots. The broth is then allowed to cool, before seasoning and fresh aromatic herbs are added. Some Cambodians even add ice to the broth and drink it cold. This dish is popular during Cambodia’s summer months of March and April.

9. Kari Sach Moan (Chicken red curry)

The Cambodians typically have the Kari Sach Moan during special occasions.

Unlike the intense spice often associated with curries from neighbouring regions, Kari Sach Moan is characterised by its delightful mildness. The use of large local red chilies, known for their vibrant colour yet moderate heat, allows for a curry that is rich yet mellow, welcoming to a broad range of palates.

Central to Kari Sach Moan is the chicken, tender and succulent, absorbing the medley of flavours infused in the curry.

10. Lort Cha (Stir-fried rice noodles)

Prefer something light for dinner? Lort Cha consists of stir-fried short rice noodles, known as rice pin noodles. These noodles are akin to the Vietnamese Banh Bot Loc and the Mee Tai Mak popular in Singapore and Malaysia.

It’s a fuss-free and delicious dish where the noodles are stir fried with soya sauce, fish sauce, vegetables like bean sprouts and green onion, and typically beef, pork or chicken. 

Although simple, it’s a staple for the locals and a go-to for anytime of the day.


Wrapping up this culinary exploration through Phnom Penh, it's evident that the city's diverse and exquisite cuisine is a direct reflection of its rich culture and history. As the capital, Phnom Penh is a melting pot of culinary traditions, providing an opportunity to savour local specialties and explore the nuances of Cambodian cuisine. And its vibrant street markets are probably one of the best ways to indulge in the unique and delectable offerings of Cambodian food!


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