History of Cambodian food and cuisines:
Every place has its own history and, thus, its own history of food. Cambodia dates back to 2000 BC, and the earliest human settlement was near the Mekong Delta region. This period marks the beginning stages of the influence of the Indian culture; there were writings based on the amalgamation of Hindu religion, culture, and food. Also, traders from different parts of the world, such as China, Europe, and Persia, started reaching Cambodia and bringing their food cuisines and cultures. As time flew by, Cambodian cuisine adapted a variety of Indian spices to increase the flavour of meat and stews used today!
Early cuisines of Cambodia:
Archaeologists claimed that the inhabitants of this region had already settled as different communities in 200 BC, where they already started cultivating rice and rearing animals. Also, it is said that the communities near the Tonle Sap and the Mekong River areas were harvesting the abundant fish and other seafood from rivers, seas, and lakes and growing rice in 100 BC.
The Cambodian diet: What are included in the diet?
The Cambodian diet mainly focuses on leafy green vegetables. In rural areas, fresh wild vegetables or green leafy vegetables grown locally are used in making stir-fries, salads, and soups. Pickled vegetables are used as an accompaniment to meat in the Cambodian diet. Cabbage, Chinese broccoli, pumpkin leaves, Thai okra, watercress, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, luffa, winter squash, summer squash, long beans, starchy vegetables, and bitter taste melon, cassava, taro, sweet potato, etc., are the common Cambodian vegetables. Also, some of the Cambodian fruits include mango, green banana, papaya, which are used in dishes like papaya salad (bok lahong), dried fish mango salad (svay bok), etc.
Which are the herbs and spices used in Cambodian food and cuisines?
Kaffir lime leaves, turmeric, cilantro, sweet Thai basil, sdao, galangal, garlic, scallions, chives, shallots, Asian coriander, green onion, ginger, and peppermint are the most common herbs used in Cambodian food. Also, in most Cambodian houses, the herbs and spices are turned into a fresh paste using a pestle and mortar every day. Cambodian spices include black peppers significantly, black peppers grown organically in Kampot, chilli peppers, etc. Lastly, soya sauce, fish sauce, and oyster sauce are used to enhance food taste!
Prahok: the fermented fish paste of Cambodia:
Cambodian diet’s main ingredients are fish and rice, for many centuries. Even today, Cambodians prefer the fermentation of fish; Prahok refers to a fermented fish paste that gives the most peculiar and most robust flavour to Cambodian cuisine. We said that the fermented fish gives the strange flavour because it has the faint smell ever, which might sense utterly unusual to the Westerners!
It smells as if a dirty sock is being locked in for many months or like a pungent smell of spoiled cheese. However, despite its pungent smell, it is said that the dish gives a good taste.