The Best Cambodia Cooking Classes - A Step Into Cambodian Cuisine

Cuisine in Cambodia has many similarities with other countries in South-East Asia but still bring many unique features. People here have rice-based meals, fish is used more than meat, as in Japan or Mediterranean countries. Prahok, a Cambodian specialty, is reserved for eating all year round appears in every meal in every home here.

Although the ingredients in the meals are somewhat similar with neighbour countries (also eat rice, noodles or dishes such as fish, meat and desserts with tropical fruits), but Cambodian cuisine is still so unique, thanks to the secret of processing and cooking Cambodian food.

Cambodian cooking tips are hardly shared on cookbooks, mostly taught by girls and passed on to the next generation. Therefore, the dishes here still retain the traditional flavour but in harmony with a bit of modernity.

Referring to the origin of Cambodian cuisine, we can not ignore the cuisine of the Khmer empire, a powerful kingdom but perished due to its surroundings in the 15th century. The identity of the ancient Khmer people, notably the dishes handed down from that time to the present, such as Khmer red curry, Khmer sausage, etc. The simple presentation of dishes but keep its charm is also a heritage from the Khmer empire.

So, what are the specific Cambodian culinary features, what is made this so exceptional? Let’s follow these sections below

The mixture of Cambodian spices

Spice is one of the most important factors that compose the taste of Cambodian dishes. And the way Cambodian spice is mixed can be considered to reach an artistic level.

Spices used in dishes are often made from a variety of ingredients, giving a fusion taste of many attractive flavours. They often use ingredients such as cloves, cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger and turmeric. Besides, with their specialties, they can add some of the ingredients such as galangal, garlic, chives, lemons, coriander, and kaffir lime leaves. The flavour of this spice mixes is ​​delicious but extremely difficult to recreate without the recipe. Kroeung is what Cambodians call these mixes.

Rice is the main ingredient in every Cambodian meal

The main course of a Cambodian meal is rice, people will have rice for meals every day. Besides, dishes such as curry, chips, and soups are popular dishes served with rice. Sticky rice such as durian sticky rice is considered as a dessert, or bamboo sticky rice – a convenient way to bring rice when travelling long distances or when working in the field without processing time.

Rice and curry - the simplest combination

When enjoying the dishes of Cambodian cuisine, visitors will taste the fat and sweet - these are the traits of the famous Sichuan - Chinese cuisine. In addition to the sweetness and fat, you will also see spicy dishes - a touch from Indian cuisine. Exotic factors in traditional Khmer dishes will show you the unique taste of Cambodia, which you can only understand through enjoyment, experience and feeling.

Cambodian cuisine with the highlight of various types of fish sauces

Fish sauce is another outstanding feature of Cambodian cuisine.

Cambodia has the two most famous types of seasoning sauce, pra-hok (beef mulberry sauce) and Kapi (shrimp paste).


Similar to the famous “nuoc mam” (fish sauce) in Vietnam, Prahok is known as a distinctive feature of Cambodia cuisine. To make Prahok, it is indispensable to prepare: salt, sugar, pepper, garlic, cold rice and well-processed fish. First, fishes are processed and exposed to the sun for a day before mixed with all of the spice and kept in jars for several months. Prahok is considered as eatable when it becomes pasty with nice grey colour and a specific smell. It is a traditional condiment of Cambodian to eat with rice as well as to season broth of some noodles soup.

Cambodian Tuk Kapi

Cambodian Tuk Kapi is almost similar to the Thai recipe - Thai Nam Prik. Ingredients to make this sauce include: shrimp paste, garlic, chillies, lime juice, fish sauce, dried fishes or dried shrimps, eggplants, palm sugar, crush peanuts (in optional).

Composition of Cambodian meals – The balance

Cambodian meal often has rice and three side dishes. Besides, there is also a soup to go with it (similar to the soup in Vietnamese meals). And the other three side dishes have different flavours. Maybe spicy, bitter, sweet, sour... But all three side dishes together bring a balancing combined flavour. Cambodians also eat spicily, so the meals are indispensable for fresh peppers or chillies. They often set aside chilli and eaters will use it according to their taste.

Scariest food in the world

Have you heard the scariest food in the world?

Not a scene in a Hollywood horror movie, you can easily see many fried insects sold at food vendor along the street in Cambodia. In the past, this is a popular food of the poor Cambodians. Because insect is a very cheap but have-high-nutrition ingredient. There is a unique market where locals can sell or buy many kinds of insects, like spiders, wasps, crickets or silkworms. They season the insects with salt, sugar, herbs and chilli then fry them into a deep oil pan.

Nowadays, these unique dishes are also served at some luxury restaurants in the city. Fired insects taste really good and so crispy.

Another dish that is quite familiar to Vietnamese people but is still considered to be scary by Western tourists, it is balut. It is a very familiar snacks food in Cambodia.

Above are the basic features for us to understand about Cambodian cuisine. A great trip, it is not only experience beautiful landscapes but also enjoy the special dishes of that country. And even more wonderful, if you can cook those specialties by yourself and introduce them to your beloveds when back home.

I would like to introduce you some great places, where you can learn about Cambodian cuisine, as well as do it in your way. Take at least half of a day in your journey to learn to cook, it worth your time!

Lily’s secret garden in Siem Reap

One of the top high ranking and most recommended on Trip Advisor.

Chef Lily and her family, offer fresh, clean, healthy and well-balanced ingredients; and can respond to special requests for vegan, vegetarian, allergic with some kinds of foods, gluten-free, no fish sauce, no shrimp paste or others…

You can choose between morning or afternoon session with a meal included.

Siem Reap Countryside Cooking Class

At this class, you will start your course with a tour in a local market, choose fresh local ingredients to cook your meal, such as herbs, spices, exotic fruits and vegetables.

Depend on what you would like to eat, choose yourself a suitable course. With the guidance of the Chef, you can assure that all of these dishes will satisfice your taste.

Your experience finishes with an authentic Khmer meal prepared by yourself and served at a unique wooden cottage with local Thatch leaf roof.

After the course, you can be confident to cook those Khmer dishes for your family to enjoy.

Smokin' Pot Cooking School in Battambang

The Chef, Mr Vannak Phou, has learnt to cook from his parents from a very young age. That is when his passion for food began, and his studies in cooking traditional Khmer cuisine started.

Having learnt all of his parents’ recipes, and being so grateful for this heritage, he wanted to share his knowledge and the legacy of traditional Khmer cuisine by teaching how to cook these authentic dishes internationally.

At this school, he will take you on a culinary adventure from the local market back to his heartfelt traditional family kitchen, where you will prepare three delicious meals of your choice.

Coconut Lyly Cooking School in Battambang

Coconut Lyly restaurant in Battambang offer courses of making Khmer cuisine.

In this cooking school, you can visit the local market and make a 4-course meal, including fried spring rolls and a creamy curry all for under $10. Reasonable price and delicious meal! All-inclusive what you need.

Nary Kitchen in Battambang

Also on top ranking of Trip Advisor, Nary Kitchen is a small but warm and cozy family restaurant in the heart of Battambang, where you can have exclusive traditional Cambodian food in a relaxed atmosphere. Since 2009, the restaurant has served thousands of customers with their best recipes.

There, they also organise professional Khmer cooking classes in English twice a day (morning and afternoon session).

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