Cambodia Travel Guide

Nov 15, 2008

Cambodian Cooking

There is a growing interest in Cambodian cuisine. Some people even have labelled Khmer food as "the new Thai", which by the way is a bit of a contradiction because actually Thai is the 'new' Cambodian. Not many people know that many Thai dishes originally are... Khmer! Yes, and it's easy to see why. Long before the Thai came to the area where they are now (they came from southern China), the Khmer occupied that land and even established a powerful kingdom. Back then, the Khmers already had lots of the recipes they still use today. But without any chillie peppers which only arrived in the 16th century when the Portuguese were exploring the shores of Southeast Asia.

And, ask any Thai where in his country the best cuisine can be found. Undoubtedly he will point you to 'Isaan' which is the northeastern part of the country. A part that had been under Khmer influence for centuries and where ethnic Khmers still live. Same in Cambodia: ask a Khmer where in his country the best cooking is done, and he will say 'Siem Reap', the very heart of that old Khmer Kingdom. And bordering the aforementioned Isaan region!

In the 1990's a Thai journalist came to Cambodia to report on the peace process in the country. Although she knew all the ingredients the Khmer were using, she was surprised by the more subtle flavours, and the beautiful balances. So, she decided to write a cookbook: "The Cuisine of Cambodia". In my opinion, it's the standard for any other cookbook. Unfortunately, this book is not in print anymore, but can still be found on Amazon.

With the growing popularity of Cambodian cuisine, more and more Khmer cookbooks are being published. An overview of these cookery books can be found on Cambodian Cookbooks.

And if you are going to Cambodia, why not first learn the basics at the one and only Phnom Penh Cooking School?

Enjoy Khmer culture, enjoy Cambodian cuisine!

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