To my delight, Cambodia turned out to be a culinary wonder. Around Sihanoukville, in particular, the traditional seafood dishes are cheap, fresh and delicious!
Along the waterfront, I tried my first ever barracuda, cooked lightly in garlic and heaps of thin strands of ginger. This is a very popular way to serve fish in this country and you have to be a real ginger fan to appreciate it. Maybe a little overpowering for some but I can never get enough ginger or garlic for that matter, so this went down a treat.
Sihanoukville is also popular for its seafood BBQ’s. At a restaurant on Otres Beach called Why Not – with the most lively waiter imaginable, I indulged in a giant plate of barbequed squid. I was a little nervous ordering this dish as I’d had some terribly cooked squid in Goa and had never gotten over the ordeal of chewing on car tyres.
Fortunately, the aroma as soon as the plate was set down in front of me, assured that this meal was going to be divine. Huge billowing rings of squid and tentacles were cooked to perfection in garlic and a light dusting of seasoning.
Probably Cambodia’s most famous dish, is the Amok. This is a fragrant coconut curry served with a very unusual green vegetable, a little like seaweed. I had mine with flaky white fish and it was glorious. So different to the highly spiced mackerel Indian curries of my childhood but just as good.
The divine Fish Amok
The best thing to snack on in Sihanoukville was so phenomenal, I did that cheeky thing of eating it too quickly and failing to get a photo to serve this blog. Oops! Sunkissed women along the beach, carry trolleys with huge baskets of deep fried shellfish, probably crayfish or large scampi in a spice batter so melt in the mouth delicious that you could literally eat the entire thing whole, shell and all. They only cost a couple of dollars but were the most gorgeous thing in the world.
You can get amazing, interesting food all over Cambodia, not just its seafood selection along its beaches. In Phnom Penh, I had a rich soup stew that reminded me very much of my favourite stew in Ho Chi Minh City. This time huge chunks of beef sat amongst thin noodles, a light spiced broth and fresh white onions on top making the whole thing come to life.
I’m sorry to say, for my readers amusement, I did not indulge in any Cambodian ‘delicacies’ of deep fried spiders, crickets and what not. I fear I should leave this task to Bear Grylls. I will stick to things non-bug like if you please…