Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Why Cambodian Food Deserves A Better Press

An article I wrote for Khmer 440...

There has been a lot of talk over the years about the need to attract more foreign visitors to Cambodia. But there is something its people could bring a much-needed change to – and that is cooking.

It is often said, sometimes even by Khmers themselves, that Cambodian food is nothing to write home about. It is supposed to be not only cack-handed at best, but also poorly imitative of Chinese, Thai, Indian, and Vietnamese cuisines. And I have asked many expats what they think of the local food only to be greeted with “not much”.

Now that is a terrible disservice. As anyone who has travelled overseas much will know, there are a whole host of Khmer delicacies that are impossible to get abroad. So much so, that the state-owned postal service says 70% of all parcels sent from here are filled with specialities like prahok, smoked and dried fish for home-sick Khmers. No doubt the list could be added to, but here are some of the things that deserve much wider recognition.

First of all, prahok, a fermented fish paste used in dips, soups, stir-fries and stews that tastes of blue cheese and is the backbone of Cambodian cooking. Then there is Kampot pepper – the country’s first product to be granted Geographical Indication status – which makes a splendid dip with salt and lime for freshly-boiled crab.

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