By Shalia, Teacher in Phnom Penh, Cambodia


group of people eating in CambodiaWhat has been the best thing you have eaten since arriving?

It actually was not Cambodian food, though Cambodian food does have its own little charm. It was a mushroom sauce veal schnitzel dish at this French restaurant I went to by the riverside area. It was extremely good, which is saying something because I don’t even really like mushrooms and the mushrooms were the best part about it. But speaking of Cambodian food specifically, I would have to say the beef lok lak has been a go-to. The best one I had was at a place called Café Chiet. It came with this seasoning that just elevated the taste and the beef was juicy and tender. It came with rice and vegetables too that brought the dish together.


What has been your worst food experience since arriving?

My worst food experience had to have been when I was ordering takeout. It’s not always a bad experience, but I think in the area me and my boyfriend were ordering in consistently had bad take out options. It would always be too cold when it arrived even though it did not take the drivers very long to drop it off. It was always better to actually go to the place when we were staying in the area near the royal palace.


Spicy Cambodian dishWhat has shocked you most about food in Cambodia?

I think because there is a slight disconnect with the language, there were things I had no idea what it was and just had to point to a random dish on their menu. Not going to lie, it was kind of shocking the first time I ever did that and ended up with their gelatinized pated meat on a baguette sandwich. I am not sure even to this day what meat it was, but it definitely took some time getting used to it. It was not bad, but it confused me to no end on how it was even possible to gelatinize and pate this mystery meat and the texture definitely took some time getting used to.


Do you usually eat out, get delivery or cook for yourself in the evenings?

Typically depends. Currently, I tend to eat out in the evenings more than cook or get delivery. I think that is mainly because a lot of the kitchens that come in Cambodian apartments just have a stove and there’s not a ton you can do. You cannot really bake and sometimes they come with a tea kettle, so you can cook things with that too. But I typically just find it a bit easier to eat out most times.


What’s your favorite thing about Cambodian food in general?

I love their sauces and seasonings a lot. They use a lot of sweet chili sauce, fish sauce, spicy and sweet soy sauce, as well as other seasonings that really have great flavor and brings a lot to their dishes.


Rice dish in CambodiaWhat one Cambodian dish would you recommend to anyone visiting for the first time?

I would have to recommend the Beef Lok Lak to anyone visiting the first time. I have also heard that the Amok is good as well, but I have not tried it yet.


If you are cooking at home, are you making Cambodian food or more familiar dishes?

Typically me and my boyfriend cook familiar dishes. This is mainly because we haven’t had the chance to learn more about how to use the Cambodian seasonings yet. We have been wanting to take a Khmer/Cambodian cooking class before actually attempting to cook the dishes we’ve tried.


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