Cambodia, the pearl of Indochina back in 1950s, was even hailed as the Paris of the East by many then. The Golden Age led by the popular King Sihanouk brought Cambodia into the modern age earlier than most other countries, only for them to suffer a brutal genocide under the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime, setting them back many years and undoing decades of progress. With such a storied history, both in modern times and medieval times with the Angkor Empire, food in Cambodia is sophisticated and delicate, even the streets offer amazing experiences if you take a deeper look and try things not just those recommended by guidebooks and western tourists. Have an experience no one else even thought of with these 6 best Cambodian Street Food experiences we wholeheartedly recommend from the Backstreets of Cambodia!
Duck Foetal Egg
While also famous in Philippines as the Balut, this version is slightly different. Without soup inside the egg, it’s just slightly moist, with just enough fluids and juices to help it ease down your throat. Always thought of eggs as just yolks and whites? Now you have many more options! Choose from the head, the beak, wings, legs, and an assortment of pre-mature avian organs. The Cambodians love crushing the entire thing in a chunky mess before adding salt pepper and a happy slice of lime before devouring it. It’s quite THE experience. And many foreigners have actually developed a love for it.
Rice Pork by SeriousEats
A much more common food, it’s really just rice and pork. But when you see it, it draws you and your stomach in like no other. A morning food in Cambodia, you’ll see ladies just sitting around the road sitting up their mini BBQ stations with a flower pot and a little wire mesh with sizzling strips of charcoal grilled pork on it. Somehow, the rice tastes extremely soft, fresh and fragrant, and i swear not a single restaurant can compare. They’ll top your plate of rice with the pork, sprinkle some scallions on it and a dash of fragrant oil used to fry shallots & garlic. Add an egg, it’ll really make your day.
Less of the food but more of the atmosphere, the night markets in Cambodia are lots of fun for locals and tourists alike. Dozens of stalls line the streets and hawkers will perform with their woks and skewers while brandishing menus and chicken feet at you. Have your fill of stir-fried noodles in 7 different forms, or have some sugarcane juice. Everyone gets what they want, and they all converge in the middle where hundreds of rolled out picnic mats are available for the customers to sit and enjoy the food under the stars, often with some Cambodian pop music. Go with a group of friends and wash it down with lots of Angkor beer. It will be one happy memory you won’t forget. Want a guided tour of the markets and experience lots of weird fruits you’ve never even seen in your life? Check out our Evening Street Food tour with a local chef or the Classic Cooking class which involves a morning market visit.
Street-side Barbeque skewers
Like most Southeast Asian countries, Cambodia also makes very good use of the humble skewer. You can find chicken hearts, whole pineapples, giant prawns, and even entire quails on it. These are everywhere, but lots of the good ones congregate at central market. Check out the seafood especially with lots of river fare from the most productive river in the world – The Mekong.
Coconut Ice Cream
A distant relative to the Thai coconut Ice-creams you always dream reminisce and fantasize about, it has its own merits and a distinctive difference in flavour. The ice cream combinations are always very special, like durian mixed with chocolate and coconut and strawberry topped with palm fruit and drizzled with sweet coconut milk. What’s amazing is they don’t deprive you of the rest of the coconut that’s rightfully yours, the coconut water. It comes together with your husk, plus complimentary rolled chocolate wafers. Heavenly.
It’s kinda hard to find this, in our storied Backstreet experience, we only know of one local shop in Phnom Penh near the central market which sells this. But there’s a more commoner version compared to this royal version where vendors simply roll their very humble-looking carts around with nothing to betray their prized goods except a bag of bread atop it. It’s amazing when you find it.
They cut open a baguette, roll 7 balls of coconut ice cream on it, drizzled with sweet condensed milk and crushed peanuts. You won’t know how much you want it until you feel the Cambodian Sun burning you. And you’ll race after humble looking carts after that. We know. Because we did. And that was one hell’uva experience, we still dream, reminisce and fantasize about it.
Cambodian Hot Pot
The celebrated pot. The Hot pot. All over Asia every culture has their own version of the hot pot, and Cambodia is no different. They have both pots and flat hotplates for BBQ and also the one shown in the picture which is a fusion of both where you have the soup at the side.
Whether it’s good really depends on the restaurant and their ingredients, but more so the company. Who you go with is almost the entire factor that determines if the experience was great. Go with fun people who’re adventurous with their food and you’ll have lots of fun snatching pieces of meat and throwing all sorts of stuff on the hot plate, all by the road side with tuktuks roaring by and the occasional elephant strolling by. (You’ll have to be really lucky these days to see that)