A culinary guidebook to Cambodia, from historical recipes to road food


Beneath a searing sun, my guidebook and I wander amid the pepper-strung trellises. As the color of the berries improvements, so do their flavour profiles, I learn: eco-friendly pepper, fermented in salt, operates perfectly with goat’s cheese and caramelised duck black pepper, the bulk of the harvest, has chocolate, mint and eucalyptus notes and enhances activity and charcuterie even though pink pepper is fruity, floral and tasty when paired with fish, or ground more than ripe strawberries.

As Kampot pepper enjoys its renewed popularity, Phnom Penh’s street food scene is also coming into its individual. Back again in the capital, I soar in a tuk tuk and sputter via its clogged, temple-flanked arteries to satisfy writer, tutorial and film site scout Nick Ray at the artwork deco Central Sector for a road foodstuff ‘safari’. “Everyone has listened to about the street foodstuff in Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City,” he suggests, “but Phnom Penh’s must be just as famed.” 

We wander along aisles lined with dried fish: catfish, snakehead, squid. “Dried fish is salty but truly good grilled and dipped in mango sauce.” The river crabs, he tells me, are fermented in salt for 5 times and then cooked with lemon, basil, sugar and chilli. 

We graze from stall to stall, tearing into barbecued beef skewers with pickled young papaya at Phsar Tapang, and grab a street-aspect pew for a plate of lort cha, a dish of short rice noodles stir-fried on a sizzling warm plate with bean sprouts, cabbage, garlic, palm sugar, fish sauce and soy sauce, then topped with a fried egg.  

“Lort cha is a common affordable lunch,” Nick claims as we tuck in. “The carts offering them all perform distinct tunes, like ice cream vans.” It’s thirsty do the job, and so we spherical off our tour with a tipple at the Juniper Gin Bar, which serves drinks from Phnom Penh’s first craft distillery, Seekers Spirits. I go for the kaffir lime leaf-laced Mekong G&T. It’s packed with native botanicals these kinds of as lemongrass, pomelo, galangal and lemony Khmer basil. It is Cambodia in a glass.  

How to do it

Singapore Airways and Vietnam Airways fly from Heathrow to Phnom Penh via Singapore and Ho Chi Minh Town, respectively.

Audley Journey gives a bespoke, 11-day excursion to Cambodia from £2,280 for every human being, such as flights, transfers and lodging, and can prepare chef-led cooking courses.

Posted in the September 2021 challenge of Countrywide Geographic Traveller Food stuff. 

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