Cambodian cuisine derives its flavor from spices and aromatic herbs, with little use of fat and meats. This cuisine is a combination of complex, vibrant flavors and a delicate balance between saltiness, sweetness, sourness and bitterness, with a keen appreciation for textures.
Khmer cuisine is gaining interest in many countries, with some people forecasting that it will become the New Thai, i.e. the next cuisine from Southeast Asia to enchant the world.
Chinese techniques such as stir-fry, steaming, and smoking meats have also been adopted, as well as the use of soy sauce, soybeans, bean sprouts, noodles and Chinese five spice seasoning. And like in Vietnamese cuisine, fish sauce is served in, and with, just about everything.
The most unique Cambodian ingredient is prahok. This is fermented fish paste and is used with much greater reserve than fish sauce, so that when it does appear, it signals the food as distinctly Cambodian.
Cambodians are fond of saltiness and also like bitterness in their food. Acidity is used to balance sweetness but is also appreciated on its own in the form of tamarind, unripe fruits, lime juice and pickles. Coconut milk helps to enrich stews, braises and curries. Meat is usually sliced or minced to flavor dishes in small quantity. Rice is a staple and is eaten in generous helpings with the other dishes.
Cambodian cuisine uses little fat and lots of fresh vegetables, fruits and seafood. This makes it one of the world's healthiest, most balanced and interesting cuisines.
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From India, by way of Java, Cambodians have inherited the art of blending spice paste using cardamom, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and turmeric. To these spices, Cambodians add such indigenous aromatic herbs such as lemongrass, galangal, garlic, shallots, cilantro and kaffir lime.
One of the signature flavors of Cambodian cuisine, the lemongrass plant provides a distinctively balmy lemon flavor that is reminiscent of its more aromatic relative, citronella. In Cambodia, it is used so much that you see lemongrass growing in every garden.
Kaffir lime leaves are not only ground into spice pastes, but also used like bay leaves to flavor a broth or sliced into thin threads as a garnish.
The blend made with all the spices and herbs is called "kroeung".
This is the foundation of most Cambodian cooking.
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