Cambodian (Khmer) food is to die for, especially their street food which is not only delicious, but also very widespread and cheap.
Take note that Khmer people have street food specialities that might seem bizarre to westerners, but it’s key to be brave and open minded. Open your mind and your stomach will follow. Listed below are some Cambodian street food staples, with some requiring a more acquired taste than others.
Balut is a delicacy found all over Southeast Asia. To make it, you boil a fertilized egg (usually duck) right before it is about to hatch. When you eat the insides of the egg beware of small bones and sometimes even feathers. I know it might sound strange, but trust me, just give it a try, and don’t overthink it. You should also add salt, pepper, and lime inside the shell if it is available.
Lort Cha (stir fried short noodles)
This dish is a Cambodian classic. It is easy to find a Lort Cha vendor since they have huge frying pans at their stands. The dish combines classic egg noodles with various vegetables and protein such as broccoli, bean sprouts, green onion, and beef, all topped off with a fried egg. If you are looking for a delicious and quick meal on the go, this is the perfect Khmer dish for you.
Bai Sach Chrouk (grilled pork with rice)
For all of the meat lovers out there, you are going to be obsessed with this dish. The best part about it is that usually you eat it for breakfast, so what a great way to start off your day! The pork’s combination of spicy flavors with a charcoal essence is incredible. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. The meat marinade varies from region to region, so I would recommend trying it in every new place you visit.
The next bizarre delicacy is tarantula. You can find them at some fancy restaurants in Phnom Penh as well as on the street. The street vendor’s tarantula is more likely to be doused in thick delicious sauce. If you are lucky you will get a spider with a large egg sac that is salty and delicious. Those that have a phobia of spiders, however, should avoid it.
Coconut Ice Cream
Cambodia is an extremely hot and humid country. So, why not treat yourself to a refreshing and local snack? Khmer coconut ice cream is the way to go. Sometimes it is paired with a baguette, chocolate wafers, and peanuts. Finally, pair it with hydrating fresh coconut water to complete the experience.
This is one of my personal street food favorites. I ate it on the beach in Sihanoukville next to the crystal blue waters and it was a scene out of a movie. You can also find this dish all over the country, not just the beach. Squid has the perfect chewy consistency and with a little smoky taste from the mini beach grills it is absolutely perfect. Be sure to stay cautious when buying seafood off the street, since this is how a lot of tourists get sick.
Chet Chien (Deep Fried Bananas)
This is another sweet and heavier Khmer street food treat and you can find them at almost any Cambodian market. They can present themselves in a nugget or full size banana. They are also fairly easy to make at home, so check out this recipe if you are a chef as well as a world traveler.
Tropical fruit: Rambutan
Last but not least, the wonders of Cambodian fruit. Southeast Asian fruit is so diverse and sweet, and Cambodian markets and street vendors are filled with these healthy treats. Rambutan is my personal favorite because it’s so fun to peel the hairy skin and then plop the juicy fruit into your mouth. It is also a fairly safe and portable fruit to eat. Think of a sweeter type of lychee. One last piece of advice that I have when it comes to Cambodian street food is to try and avoid pre-cut fruit or fruit with ice so that you don’t get sick from the water. Avoid the mistake that I made…I nearly passed out in Angkor Wat because of the delicious pre-cut mango from the night before.