A Trip Around Cambodia – Part 3: Food (the good, the bad, and the ugly)

Warning – Vegetarians and vegans probably won’t like this post.

Whilst we were travelling in Cambodia in June 2018, we heard about the untimely death of Anthony Bourdain. He inspired a whole movement of travellers to explore, see and, above all, taste the world and everything it has to offer. It was his early 2000s visit to Cambodia in A Cook’s Tour that made it a place I had forever since wanted to visit, but somehow never had the chance until then.

During our trip we had the opportunity to eat a full spectrum of Cambodian food – simple grilled meat at the roadside through to creative takes on traditional dishes. Did we enjoy it all? No, but that the pleasure of trying new flavours.

The Good…

Some of the best food we ate was at the simple roadside stalls that line the small villages on the busy connecting roads around Cambodia. At one stop, a lady was selling whole grilled ducks and despite it only being 10.00am, we happily stood eating one watching monks and motorbikes wander on their way. At another, in the middle of a heavy rain storm, we sat under a leaky cover dipping freshly grilled meat into a bowl of locally grown lime juice and pepper mix.

Perhaps the most memorable was one stop outside of Battambang. It sold a variety of locally caught meats including frogs, snakes and rats. Rats indeed, but we were assured these were “country rats” not “city rats” – eating the latter would just be nasty!

So what did we try? Pictures below…

On the other side of good, was the restaurant Romdeng in Phnom Penh, an enterprise set up to support former street children across Cambodia by providing education, employment and opportunities in the hospitality industry. Whatever your thoughts on mass tourism, it does provide support to such initiatives but further examples of such positive tourism are much needed around the world.

The food in Romdeng is varied and creative, and includes dishes from across Cambodia and Laos. One particular dish caught our eye, and we felt we just had to try – Deep Fried Tarantulas with a Lime and Pepper dipping sauce.

The Bad…

Not so much bad, but “could have done better”. That was the cook’s verdict on my attempts at the Cambodian cookery lesson we took in Phnom Penh. We made Fish Amouk, a type of curry steamed and served in a folded, boat like banana leaf.

However, Giles being Giles got high praise for his. This didn’t seem a one off, as Giles got similar praise for his cooking skills in Banteay Chhmar and Bangkok on this same trip. This raises one important question…

Why does he find it so difficult to cook at home?

The Ugly…

Sometimes, you see a menu option that just does not appeal. Just no, never. I’m sorry Cambodia, but not even I, while intrigued indeed, could face a bowl of this… It must be the ants…

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