Confusing cuisine in Cambodia

A market in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Delicious curries, soups and rice dishes are first to spring to mind when thinking of Cambodian cuisine. Often described as ‘Thai without the heat’, Cambodian, or Khmer, cooking has a lot in common with its neighbouring Southeast Asian cuisines, however, below is a list of some of their more unique delicacies:

Prahok

Prahok, or fermented fish paste, is a common ingredient used in many Cambodian dishes. It’s an acquired taste for most westerners, but is an essential part of the Khmer cuisine and it’s included in many dishes or used as a dipping sauce. The generous use of prahok, which adds a salty flavour to food, is a characteristic that differentiates Cambodian cuisine from its neighbours.

Fried spider

Fried spider is a regional delicacy in Cambodia. The spiders are bred in holes in the ground or foraged from nearby forests and then fried in cooking oil and sold as street food. The taste is bland with different textures; a crispy exterior and soft centre. The legs contain hardly any meat, while the head and body are made up of soft white meat. The abdomen contains a brown paste consisting of organs, possibly eggs, and excrement. Definitely not everyone’s cup of tea!

Image courtesy of vejo

Crunchy crickets

Considered a pest in most parts of the world, the millions of crickets that swarm the plains every year are actually celebrated in Cambodia. Seen as a delicacy, the crickets are served up deep-fried, crispy and seasoned. Some Cambodians believe eating crickets regularly improves wellbeing and aids a long life.

Image courtesy of daygloday

Balut

A balut is a fertilized duck embryo that is boiled alive and eaten in the shell. Most Cambodians consider balut to be an aphrodisiac and a high-protein, hearty snack. It is commonly sold by street vendors and often served with beer.

Image courtesy of Mike Barish

Tiger penis*

The penis of a tiger is consumed in restaurants in many parts of Southeast Asia. Considered a valuable delicacy, tiger penis can be served in a soup, ground in wine or soaked in rice. Cambodians believe the dish has therapeutic properties; however, modern science does not support this belief. Additionally, the demand for tiger parts worsens the endangered status of the animal, creating a market for poachers.

Image courtesy of Cormacmorel

Why not sample some of these confusing dishes for yourself? Cox & Kings offers tailor-made holidays to Cambodia that explore the country’s diverse natural and cultural heritage.

This post is brought to you by Cox & Kings.

* The information contained in this post is for information purposes only and does not form an endorsement by Velvet Escape of the hunting and/or consumption of endangered species.

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4 Responses to “Confusing cuisine in Cambodia”

  1. Chris 05/10/2012 11:09 am
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    I’m living in Cambodia and I never heard of Tiger penis consumption. Do you know which part of the country it is?

    All the others are delicious!!! No I’m joking I don’t really like, except few crickets sometimes (but often it’s really oily). Anyway nice article!

  2. velvet 04/07/2011 10:13 am
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    Thanks Lara! I’m staying clear of that one too.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  3. lara dunston 03/07/2011 4:15 am
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    I’m all for trying everything once, though I’ll stop at dishes made from endangered species, such as the tiger penis. I’d be putting a disclaimer on that one, Keith! :)

  4. Nick 29/06/2011 11:08 am
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    The weird and the wonderful of Asia if cuisine. The main thing is to give it a try as you’ll never know until you give it a go (o.k, maybe not all of it) !

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