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Since the kingdom of Angkor, Khmer cuisine has been based on the sophisticated cultivation of rice. Thai, coastal Malay, and southern Vietnamese flavours are all present in Cambodian cuisine, but the most important influence on Cambodian cuisine has been Chinese food. The French colonial presence has left a taste for French food in the towns, with French food such as baguettes, pate’s, and cafe’ au lait readily available.

In the towns, snacking at all hours of the day and nights is possible because of the large number of hawkers. In Phnom Penh, all types of cuisine are available in a range of restaurants, with French and Chinese food the favourite choices.

Khmer cuisine has similarities to Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese. Fish in many forms (fresh, dried or salted) accompanies rice as the staple food of the nation. Cooks often make liberal use of aromatic herbs such as coriander, mint and lemongrass. The Cambodians have retained the tradition of freshly baked bread, a vestige of the French colonial years. They also enjoy coffee, also introduced by the French, but served local style with much sweetened condensed milk. Cambodians also like their desserts, which are often based on rice or fruit, very sweet. 


A Typical Cambodian Meal

Well-off rural Khmer have several meals a day. The first meal consists of a piece of fruit or cake. The first full meal is eaten at about nine or ten in the morning. Farmers eat a large meal at noon and have supper with their families on returning home at around 5.00 p.m. Poor rural Khmer have only two meals a day.

Each meal consists of rice, accompanied by soup. Rice may be less thoroughly milled than it is in many other rice-eating countries, and consequently, contains more vitamins and roughage; the most common accompaniments with rice are vegetables, fish, and fish-based products, such as tuk trey (tak trey), or fish sauce; prahok (prah-hok), or fish paste; and shrimp paste. Meat and poultry are considered more expensive luxuries, and they are used sparingly or for special occasions. Hot peppers, lemongrass, mint, and ginger add flavour to many Khmer dishes, and sugar is added to many foods. Several kinds of noodles are also eaten. The basic diet is supplemented by vegetables and fruit, which grow abundantly throughout the country. Sweets and desserts are usually made from palm sugar and coconut milk, and are prepared on special occasions.

There are no courses at a Cambodian meal. All the dishes are laid out together with the rice, and people help themselves to the dishes, adding a little bit of everything to their bowls of rice. The majority of people still eat what they grow, raise, or catch. Cambodians get together for communal feasts during festive occasions.




A wide variety of food is sold in markets and stalls across Cambodia. the largest market building in the country is the Central market in Phnom Penh. Besides food, many different kinds of goods are sold there, including anitiques, jewelry, and clothing. 


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