Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Why I hate Khmer food

The delicate art of flavouring has been replaced by monosodium glutamate and piles of sugar. The proud tradition of tasty vegetarian food as been ditched for a headlong dash to eat as many gross animal parts as possible.

The food lacks both the flair and taste of Thai dishes and the innovation and variety of Vietnamese cuisine.

It may not be their fault – the Khmer Rouge killed off knowledge and culture and the cuisine was no exception – but the sad fact is the food here is not only frequently dirty and laced with chemicals, it is also just bland and boring.

Ten worst culinary culprits:

10. ‘Special’ Eggs: Why settle for a perfectly good boiled egg when you can include a semi-formed chicken faetus?

9. Fried Spiders: Or maybe they’re tarantulas. Not that that makes it in the least bit better.

8. Pig’s head: Only for special occasions, mercifully.

7. Cake: They look the part, with artistic and colourful decorations. Unfortunately they taste like cardboard and sour cheese.

6. Dog, Rat, Snake: All gross (though why isn’t eating pig, chicken or cow equally distasteful?).

5. Angkor beer: “My beer, my country”. An unfortunate flag-bearer, this bland, mass-produced swill is hard to swallow and harder to forget given its bitter chemical aftertaste.

4. Fish sauce: This putrid concoction can spoil the tastiest of veggie stir-fries, and without specific interdiction will pollute most dishes when eating out.

3. Dog-hair bread: The bread itself a poor, sweetened mockery of delicious French baguettes. So why not ruin it completely by adding a layer of dog hair (some claim it is shredded pork – same difference).

2. Durian: “Like eating raspberry blamonge - in a lavatory” according to Anthony Burgess. “A mixture of cheese, onions, sherry, rotting meat, and drains” suggests the BBC’s Christine Finn. Either way, you can see why many hotels and taxis don’t even let you carry let alone eat this gruesome fruit.

1. Cow intestines: A delicacy, ‘the best part of the cow’. Or, more accurately, a gross-out plate which looks like worms and smells like shit, which of course is uncomfortably near to the truth.


  1. Have you been here too long then Oly the novelty is wearing off?? :-)

    I agree with certain aspects of yet another provocative post (which is again a complement) and certainly the generally theme that traditional Khmer is under a form of culinary assault.

    There was interesting piece in the Post a few weeks back about the growth of western style restaurants and fast food. These of course are having both economic and social effect on Cambodian food and indirectly of society and health.

    I do however flatly but respectively disagree with you on points: 9, 7 and 3 and suggest that you are not going to the right places. Also I would like to add to the list fried crickets which I really like.

    May I suggest for alternative view to Oly's people can read


    and with regards the wider changes in Cambodian culinary culture





  2. Good input John!

    On number 7 (cake) I stand corrected - if you're in Phnom Penh there are great delis, including the melt in the mouth lemon pie I just savoured from The Shop on 240. But in normal Cambodian towns I've failed to find anything but the cardboardy sourcheese stuff...

    On numbers 9 (spiders) and 3 (dog-hair bread)we'll have to agree to differ - and you can keep your fried crickets too! But I do agree that if you are going to eat animals then there's no basis to critecise eating some and not others. And that burger joints are evil.

    Funny to hear about your gag reflex to the fishy fare - I'd stick to your fried salt & pepper eggplant and peanut butter sarnies!

    Bon appetit my friend! Olyx

  3. Wow, it was so so upset to read all these words about Cambodia........you make it soud like Cambodian ppl eat shit everyday ha???

  4. My my... hate is such a strong word. A lot of what I see in Cambodia is an interpretation of other cuisines. I think you may have missed the fact that most of these items are eaten in other parts of the world as well. If you are nice enough, you might get invited to to a Khmer household and actually enjoy real Cambodian food. A lot of the things you've listed I've never eaten as a Khmer. Home cooked food, unfortunately, is where you can get the most authentic Cambodian dishes.