I spent an excessive amount of time in Cambodia, less than a month ago. My friend Divya and I scorched our way through Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap (the AC was always kept at a balmy 16 degrees!).
Cambodia was gastronomic upheaval. There were things I loved shovelling down my face. (Amok Fish Curry and Angkor Beer); and then there were things I refused to even smell, let alone be anywhere close to me. The whole concept of street food in Cambodia made my stomach turn. They sell, cook and eat everything. Roots, barks, stem, fruit, flower, seed, leaf, offal, fish, crab, duck, snakes, beef, chicken, quails, eyes, nose, tail, tongue, skin, udders, well you get the drift.
They eat the above with rice. In. Every. Imaginable. Colour.
Clearly you think I exaggerate. Look for yourself.
Let’s begin at the beginning. Phnom Penh is not as exotic as it sounds. It’s busy, it’s manic, it smells funky and it was relentlessly hot. Flying into Phnom Penh and landing over the Mea Kong river was fun, immigration was such a breeze, getting to our friend Amit and Hannah’s home was a pain, because our maverick tuk-tuk guy drove so fast he ended up injuring his machine and well both my backpacks and I had to hail down another noisy tuk-tuk.
But our first dinner by the waterfront was yummy and calming. Our dinner hosts were faboosh and they introduced us to Amok Curry! (I bought myself some Amok curry powders and pastes to experiment in my Bombay kitchen). The beef with random green things was delish. Also, say hello to the baguette with garlic butter. The French did leave a few cool things behind.
Here’s the excellently grilled duck along with rice and some not so tasty dipping sauces. Thank god for coke to wash things down with. I also discovered a lovely dessert shop which served fresh ice-cream, chocolates and pastries. They also had excellent wifi which made me love them excessively.
After a few depressing days of heat, 2$ tuk-tuk rides, genocide museums, killing fields and a ridiculous palace which was never open when we went, we decided to take a short drive to Sihanoukville.
This bowl of awful noodles and bony chicken and pudgy potatoes was not eaten.
Sihanoukville is an under-developed, white-sand stretch of beach with tropical islands all around. With high expectations and rubbish bargaining skills, we arrived at what would be a lovely beach break in the middle of our hectic vacation! We made our own eggs for breakfast, I collected seashells, slept for hours, did not watch a single sunrise or sunset, lay in hammock swings, tried swimming to a nearby island, drank beers by sunlight and gin and tonics by moonlight, engaged in 10 minute conversations per day and lost my Coach sunglasses to the waves.
The bus ride back to Phnom Penh was a nightmare, the seats were smelly and there was traffic and Divya spoke incessantly to two other travellers abut Goa and Mr. Modi! The bus, however, brought us back for a night of Jäger bombs (which cost only 2$) and an excellent beef barbecue.
In Phnom Penh, I made Divya walk down a dark and busy market square and took pictures of all the things being served on the streets. It smelt pungent and rancid and we left promptly after I had enough pictures for Instagram.
Siem Reap was lovely! In another post, I might tell you all about Angkor Wat, which was my favourite part of the holiday. But for this post, look at what we ate!
Funny looking ice-cream cones, more Amok fish and chicken curries, fresh seafood and more beers.
We ate at this grill bar on Pub Street and we loved it, although my question to the proprietors was WHY WON’T YOU SCALE YOUR FISH BEFORE YOU GRILL IT? Here are some pictures of dinner from Divya’s fancy pants camera.
It was a magical week in Cambodia, I don’t think I’m going back. But, I never say never. (Although, wait I just did). While at the airport, I did glance through some lovely cookbooks which I shall be lining up on my kitchen bookshelf rather quickly.
Have you been to Cambodia? Did you like the food? What did you think of my food journey?
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If you are in Bangalore, go meet my friend Divya, who is an excellent photographer and a very kind person.
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