Why Don’t We Eat More Cambodian Food?
“Now that you are eating the rice, you can enjoy the taste of the food.” Cambodian waiter in Siem Reap to me.
I don’t like rice but I am grateful to rice for keeping people from starving. It is the most widely consumed food in the world especially in Asia. In Asian countries it is weird if you don’t eat rice. So this trip I managed to not eat rice in Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Viet Nam but in Cambodia everyone eats rice. If they see that your plate has no rice, they put rice on it. In many restaurants, rice is free or included. They did not understand the no rice thing. Having had so much starvation for so many years, it is odd for them to see people jogging to lose weight or not eat rice. I needed to eat some rice in Cambodia to understand the food. I felt a little of that first world privilege that I had a choice not to eat it.
Khmer food takes influences from a variety of countries. Cambodia was a French colony for many years and also has many Chinese immigrants, so both French and Chinese foods are widely found. Thailand is nearby and influences the flavors as well. as well. Common ingredients are rice and sticky rice, fish sauce, palm sugar, lime, garlic, chilies, coconut milk, lemon grass,, kaffir lime and shallots.
I have never eaten Cambodian food before so I can’t judge anything other than that I thought it was fresh and delicious. The flavors are strong, clean and not too spicy for me. (Cambodian curry)
Hunger is a legacy that lives on in Cambodian food and everything is edible. This is not my first fried bug country but there are a lot of them here. Platters of fried tarantulas and spiders are common in the market.
They told me the red ants that were biting my leg on the hammock were delicious when cooked with beef and they were right.
My new favorite Cambodian dish is Amok, a popular Khmer dish. Amok is a national dish, made from fish, coconut milk and curry paste and cooked in banana leaves. I had it with fish and chicken.(fish amok and morning glory)
I love trying new restaurants and my new favorite restaurant is in Siem Reap Cambodia. It is Batchum Khmer Kitchen restaurant (http://batchumkhmerkitchen.com) I ate there twice. The food is fresh and organic (as most food is in agricultural communities).
It is located in a quiet part of the Angor Archaological Park overlooking tropical gardens and rice paddies. (watching the quick tropical rainstorm while eating)
The second day I went for a coffee and did not plan on staying for lunch but it is so beautiful and relaxing there and the food is so delicious and the staff is so friendly that we ended up staying.
In the Khmer language the word for rice and food are the same. In Cambodia, they go together.