While it isn’t as well known for its cuisine or street food scene as neighboring Thailand or Vietnam, there are still plenty of treats and curiosities to uncover during a trip to Cambodia.
Sometimes, it can be a little hard to know what to try first, so to help you get started, here are our top 25 recommendations for street food in Cambodia that you need to try while you’re there.
1. Lort Cha
A favorite throughout Southeast Asia and always a reliable option when you can’t find anything else to tempt you, lort cha is Cambodia’s take on fried noodles. They’re usually served with bean sprouts, spring onion, chives, pieces of tofu, egg and meat, and you’ll be able to find a stall almost anywhere you travel. A classic Cambodian street food option that is both inexpensive and delicious, meaning it’s likely to become one of your go-to dishes while travelling in the country.
Another classic you’ll find in Cambodia as well as throughout the rest of Southeast Asia – wherever you find street food stands, you’re likely to find someone grilling skewers of meat. In some of the smaller towns, the choices might be limited, but in places like Phnom Penh, you’ll find a huge range of items being cooked. If you just want something familiar, you can always find barbecued chicken, beef or pork – but the more adventurous can sample local specialties like frog, snake, crocodile and more!
3. Seafood Barbecue
If you spend any time in the southern region next to the coast, especially in Sihanoukville, you can also expect to find a range of barbecued treats from the sea. The beach on Sihanoukville has long been famous for cheap but delicious barbecued fish, and at street food stalls, you’ll also be able to pick up grilled fish, squid, prawns and shellfish at extremely reasonable prices.
4. Kuy Teav
Along with fried noodles, another Cambodian classic you’ll probably come back to again and again is kuy teav, Cambodia’s version of noodle soup. Usually containing flat rice noodles served in a delicious savory broth and accompanied by beef or other meat, you can eat this dish at any time of the day. You may also come across versions that include liver or intestines – this might take a little getting used to for some, but it helps make the soup even more nutritional and flavorful.
Something you’re likely to spot early on during your stay in Cambodia, kralan is a kind of sticky rice cooked in bamboo that you split open to get to the rice. The rice is cooked in coconut milk along with other ingredients like black beans. The rice and ingredients are stuffed into the bamboo, which is then placed onto a charcoal fire, imparting a distinctive smoky flavor. A typical local treat you should be sure to try before leaving the country.
It’s no surprise in a country with such an abundant supply of coconuts that coconut ice cream has become a favorite sweet treat with locals and tourists alike. Typically sold by the roadside and served inside the shell of a coconut – and often with pieces of fresh coconut flesh sprinkled on top. Since the weather in Cambodia can get seriously hot, this will be a welcome treat – it’s the ideal option to help you cool down as you wander around the temples at Siem Reap under the punishing Cambodian sun.
If you want to eat like Cambodians, this simple and inexpensive meal is a typical way to start the day. It consists of strips of delicious grilled pork served over steamed rice and accompanied by an egg and a few other additions like chives, spring onions and pickled vegetables. You can buy it from street vendors, and often, there will be somewhere for you to sit and eat it too. That way, you can enjoy your breakfast while mixing with the friendly locals at the same time.
More famous in the Philippines – where they are known as balut – as well as in neighboring Vietnam, this is not a delicacy for the faint of heart. Duck or chicken eggs are allowed to be fertilized, and the embryo is then left to develop. But before the chick hatches, the egg is boiled, and what’s inside, half-formed chick and all, is then eaten. In Cambodia, they are served simply with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lime. Fertilized eggs are prized as a rich source of protein, although many visitors to the country may have a hard time finding the courage to try.
9. Chet Chien
Along with coconuts, Cambodia also has an almost limitless supply of bananas, and in the countryside, banana trees can even be seen growing wild by the side of the road. Chet chien is a Cambodian dessert that puts them to good use by wrapping them up in spring roll wrappers and deep-frying them. Just like battered deep-fried bananas, this turns them into a delectable treat that is even better when enjoyed sprinkled with sugar and paired with ice cream.
10. Rice soup
Another classic Cambodian breakfast staple, this is simply a bowl of broth with cooked rice and pieces of either chicken or pork thrown in. Many travelers won’t be accustomed to starting the day with a bowl of rice, but once you try it, this is a practice you might find yourself enjoying more than you expected.
Similar to rice soup, bobor is the Cambodian version of rice porridge, also known as congee. The difference here is that the rice is cooked for longer until it begins to break down – the consistency is thicker than soup since there is less liquid. This dish is popular across Asia, from China to Indonesia and the Philippines, but in Cambodia, it’s usually served with fish and ginger. This might seem a little unusual at first to Western palates, but it’s a classic Asian comfort food that visitors to the region often also quickly grow to love.
12. Banh Chev
This is a Cambodian specialty that will be more easily accessible to those who aren’t quite used to some of the more exotic delights available from roadside stalls in Cambodia. A stuffed rice flour pancake containing all kinds of delicious morsels like prawn, shrimp, chicken, bean sprouts, onion and more along with mint, vinegar and crushed peanuts. This is another safe dish to look out for if you don’t feel like sampling anything more extreme.
For anyone who’s been to Vietnam, it will be welcome news that Cambodia also has its own version of the street sandwich. Both countries were colonized by France, and part of the legacy the French left behind is the love of good bread. In Cambodia, French-style baguettes are stuffed full of things like meat, pâté, fresh vegetables and delicious Cambodian sauces to create delicious and filling snacks you can enjoy whenever you start feeling hungry. Sometimes it’s astounding how the Cambodians and their Vietnamese neighbors can make something as simple as the humble sandwich taste so good!
For some people, the idea of eating snails is up there with things like fertilized eggs, but if you can eat shellfish like mussels and oysters, snails shouldn’t be so hard to stomach. The ones on sale on the streets of Cambodia are freshwater versions and are delicious with a little chili seasoning to give them a little extra kick. They don’t cost much either, so you can buy a cup to taste – and if you find they’re not for you, at least you gave them a try!
15. Chive Cakes
This is a Chinese-inspired street food that makes a great between-meal snack. Made of glutinous rice flour, flavored with chives and fried in large batches on pans in the street, they’re delicious just as they are with a touch of spicy fish sauce to give them a little extra flavor.
Another Chinese classic adopted and adapted to Khmer tastes. In China, steamed buns are found everywhere, usually stuffed with pork but also available with a range of other fillings. In Cambodia, they often contain an egg along with the meat, and they have fewer added spices than their Chinese counterparts, giving them a simpler and more delicate taste. Stalls are easy to identify by their large racks of steamers, and just a couple of these buns is enough to keep you going for a good few hours.
Another familiar sight in Cambodia is shrimps deep-fried together into cakes, heads, tails and all. You don’t need to worry about removing the shells or any other parts, you just bite into them as they are. A similar alternative is deep-fried shrimps used as a topping for bread. This snack may be a little oily – and not particularly healthy if you eat it too often – but in moderation, it’s a tasty treat to savor.
18. Fried Bugs
In Cambodia, they eat fried bugs. It’s not just for curious tourists, it’s a real thing. And if you dare to try, you might actually find that some of them are quite enjoyable too. There’s a wide range of bugs and critters available, and some of them are better than others. Of course, it’s a matter of personal taste, but fried grasshoppers come highly recommended – but deep-fried cockroaches, perhaps not so much.
Khmer sausages are a vivid red color and are usually a bit sweeter than the kind of sausage you might be used to eating. That’s because one of the main ingredients is palm sugar, along with quite a bit of pork fat, which gives them a juicy texture. You’ll see them being sold on sticks or as balls, and once you get used to the slightly surprising taste, you’ll probably find them quite moreish.
20. Fish Amok
Although perhaps not technically a street food, it’s not possible to talk about Cambodian cuisine without mentioning amok, and since you can find versions of it sold in night markets, we feel it deserves its place on our list. Practically the national dish, amok is a creamy coconut curry that’s similar to the kind of thing you find in Thailand but without the chili. It’s also available with meat, but the fish version is perhaps the most traditional – and if you travel to Cambodia, this is the one dish you must try before you leave.
21. Lok Lak
A dish of stir-fried beef served with tomato, lettuce, cucumber, onion and a squeeze of lime. Hugely popular in Cambodia now, although the original version has Vietnamese roots. Another delicious street food classic to look out for while you’re there.
22. Pickled Fruit
Southeast Asia in general is a great place to sample a wide range of exotic tropical fruits, and in Cambodia, look out for things like longan, rambutan and jackfruit. However, a more typically Khmer treat to try is pickled fruit like papaya, mango and guava, served up with a pinch of salt, a touch of chili and a shake of fish sauce. Unusual, but tasty nonetheless.
23. Grilled Frog
For those in search of culinary curiosities, you might like to try a grilled frog, cooked in front of you on a roadside barbecue. The meat is delicate and tender, which is why frog is a popular delicacy in Cambodia – and if the simple idea of eating this animal doesn’t put you off, it’s well worth sampling.
24. Local doughnuts
While in Cambodia, you’ll find plenty of places selling locally made doughnuts and other similar cakes and confectionaries. The sort sold on the street is far less expensive than if you hunt down one of the Starbucks outlets that are springing up around the country, and as a more authentic local option, in many ways, they seem even more delicious.
25. Iced Coffee
Iced coffee is popular throughout all of Southeast Asia – unsurprisingly, really, due to the intense year-round heat – and the version you’ll find being sold from roadside stalls is both refreshing and extremely tasty. Perfect on a hot day, especially with one of the cakes or doughnuts from #24!
Be brave and be adventurous
Some of the food in Cambodia is irresistible in anybody’s book, but some of the items you’ll see might require a bit more courage to try. However, the best advice, as ever, is to be as brave as possible and to try as much of the street food as you can. That way, even if you don’t like everything you put in your mouth, at least you’ll leave with a few good stories when you leave!