Lok Lak (Stir-Fried Beef)
Lok lak or stir-fried beef varies from one cook to another, but it’s usually accompanied by fresh lettuce, tomato, red onion, and cucumber slices. To produce its distinctive flavour, the meat is marinated overnight with a unique combination of fish sauce, soy sauce, lemon, pepper, and oyster sauce. If you’re not a fan of beef, most restaurants can easily substitute it with venison, pork, chicken or even tofu. As with most local dishes in Siem Reap, lok lak is served with rice, fried egg, tangy brown sauce, and a side of fresh lettuce leaves.
Fish amok is freshwater fish fillet that’s steamed with curry and banana leaves, resulting in a soft mousse-like texture. Unlike most curries in Asia, it exudes a fragrant flavour rather than a spicy one due to the combination of coconut milk and kroeung, a Khmer-style curry paste that contains garlic, lemongrass, turmeric root, Chinese ginger, kaffir lime, shallots, and galangal. Fish amok is traditionally eaten during the Water Festival, but travelers can enjoy this classic dish (with a big plate of rice) any time of the day at local restaurants in Siem Reap.
Bai Sach Chrouk (Pork with Broken Rice)
Bai sach chrouk is sold by roadside food stalls and local markets in downtown Siem Reap for less than US$1. This simple yet popular Cambodian breakfast staple comprises juicy pork slices, scrambled eggs, and rice. While the dish typically calls for raw pork that’s slow-cooked over a charcoal stove, there are several Khmer restaurants that marinate the meat with coconut milk or garlic for added flavour. Once it’s cooked, the pork is thinly sliced and arranged atop a bowl of broken rice, sliced scrambled eggs, pickled cucumbers, and daikon radish. A bowl of chicken broth, scallions and fried onions are also served together with bai sach chrouk.
Nom Banh Chok (Khmer Noodles)
Nom banh chok, similar to Vietnam’s pho, is typically enjoyed as a quick and inexpensive breakfast. Available around markets in downtown Siem Reap, look out for local women carrying handwoven baskets with a shoulder pole. A bowl of Khmer noodles costs between US$0.50 and US$1, consisting of rice noodles, mint leaves, bean sprouts, green beans, banana flower, and cucumbers in a fish-based green curry. On special occasions such as weddings and religious festivals, locals usually replace nom banh chok’s green gravy with red curry sauce.
Khmer Red Curry
Khmer red curry, despite its striking colour, does not contain chilli, making it a much milder version of typical Thai and Indian curries. Ideal for those who can’t stand spicy food, this coconut milk-based dish utilizes kroeung, which is a Khmer curry paste made with lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime zest, and turmeric. Traditionally served with a French baguette, it’s cooked together with meat slices (beef, chicken or fish), eggplant, green beans, and potatoes. The best place to enjoy Khmer red curry is at Khmer Kitchen Restaurant, though we highly recommend Malis Cambodian Restaurant’s Kampot rock crab red curry (US$22) for seafood lovers.
Prahok Ktiss (Pork Dipping Sauce)
Prahok ktiss is a traditional condiment in Siem Reap which uses fermented fish paste as its main ingredient. While most prahok-based dishes have a very strong, pungent flavour, this dipping sauce is palatable to most visitors thanks to the addition of sliced pork belly or minced pork, eggplant, coconut milk, and kroeung (Khmer curry paste). Served with plenty of freshly sliced vegetables such as carrot, cabbage, cucumber, and long beans, prahok ktiss is typically enjoyed as a snack or side dish to noodles or rice.
Samlor Machu Trey (Sweet and Sour Soup with Fish)
Samlor machu trey is popular among health-conscious diners thanks to its generous portions of fresh herbs, fish fillets, and vegetables, all cooked in a clear broth. Sweet and sour in taste, this one-pot dish is lightly seasoned with sugar, fish sauce, and salt and makes for a filling lunch or dinner. Some of its ingredients include fish, water spinach, garlic, lemongrass, celery, tamarind juice, bean sprouts, and pineapple. Priced at US$0.75 onwards, eat like the locals by pilling fresh herbs and chilli peppers on top of your samlor machu trey.