American Thoughts on Khmer Cuisine

One of the downsides to living in a hotel for the next two weeks is the lack of a kitchen. The upside is that I’m in Cambodia, Kingdom of Street Food and Cheap Beer. The options are endless.

But the only phrase I know in Khmer is “Check, please,” which makes eating known foods more difficult.

Yesterday, I discovered how much I don’t enjoy Khmer curry or fruit smoothies, for example. But I’ve also eaten fried banana, something I never would’ve tried if I’d known banana was involved.

It’s one of the only foods I actively avoid, and here I’ve found a way to consume it. I just had to travel halfway across the world and enjoy its least healthy iteration.

After a few days I’m street savvy enough to know the general direction in which good-smelling food can be found, at least, but beyond that I’m hopeless. After perusing guidebooks at the local coffee shop, I discovered I’m not missing much, and hopeless pretty much describes the state of enjoyable prepared meals around here.

2014-08-22 11.49.06

This tasted fine, but I don’t trust the color of those tomatoes.

There were three pages in this 100-page book about local cuisine, and two of them featured the fast food scene and local pizza. To be fair, there’s a bakery that sells pizza toppings on bread, and it’s rumored to be tasty. But still.

So for the next two weeks I guess I’ll stick to my fried food and the sticky buns I found at the Taiwan Bakery down the street.

And I’m sure I’ll return to the Khmer restaurant where I ordered one can of beer and received a basket with six. (Maybe they just don’t want to deal with drunk customers trying to order round after round?)

You think I'm kidding.

You think I’m kidding?

In case you’re worried I’m planning to live on beer, pastries and fried fruits, you’re probably justified. On the positive side, I’ll sweat everything out in a matter of hours , and the hotel sells entire pots of tea by the dollar, so I’ll get more than my fair share of antioxidants and other cancer-preventing benefits.

I imagine after two weeks it’ll balance out. And then — even if they have to roll me across the border — it’s on to Vietnam, home of the famous pho for every meal.

There’s also a possibility that I’ll discover some hidden gem of a meal. Considering I’m not too big on pork, which seems to be a staple, I’m guessing not. If so, I swear, you’ll be the first to know.


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