The cuisine of Cambodia is directly influenced by both Khmer culture and the country’s geographical position. With a long history of rice cultivation, access to the abundant waters of the Mekong River and Tonle Sap, and influences from its other Asian neighbors, Cambodian cuisine is a truly unique experience that uses various pastes and vegetables to spice up its dishes.
While freshwater fish is a staple in certain Cambodian meals, many dishes from the country are still well-suited for vegan cuisine, from the sweetness of the nom gkow and the sourness of the Salmar Machu. Now, with that said, what are the two unique flavors that you can expect to savor in Cambodia?
A paste that characterizes many a Cambodian dish, kroeung translates to “ingredient” in English. A Khmer creation, Kroeung paste is the base for several Cambodian dishes, such as curries and stews. This ingredient comes in several variations which are all plant-based — yellow kroeung uses lemongrass and turmeric, red kroeung uses chili, and green kroeung uses cilantro. With a kroeung as a base, you can spice up your own vegan dishes with a distinct Khmer taste.
Sweet (Rice) Meals
With the prevalence of rice in the Cambodian diet, it makes sense that rice is also used in its sweet foods. One example would be the kralan, a snack made from sticky rice, beans and shredded coconut that’s stuffed into a bamboo shoot and roasted over an open fire. Plenty of other desserts, such as the Nom gkow (rice custards) and rolled banana cakes use this component, but other Cambodian desserts don’t necessarily have to use rice. Pumpkin custard, and mung bean pudding, for example, use vegetables as the base for their sweet taste, while the Cha houy teuk jelly dessert uses seaweed as its base. In spite of this, rice remains a ubiquitous part of Cambodian sweet cuisine.
An Experience Along the Mekong
The Khmer heritage can be felt in the culinary culture of Cambodia, from its ubiquitous use of rice to its distinctive food pastes. With Vegan Culinary Cruises, you too can explore the culture and cuisine of Cambodia on our latest cruise through the Mekong River this 2020.