Enjoy the tropical fruits of Cambodia.
Nowadays, tropical fruits are available in almost every supermarket in the West.
But, eating fruits after their long travel is incomparable with eating them close to the source: much more enjoyable.
Fresh fruits are an important part of a healthy balanced diet.
So, stay healthy in Cambodia and enjoy the wonderful and tasty fruits of this country!
The lychee is called Koulen in Khmer and many foreigners are familiar with the tinned, processed fruit. The fresh fruit is small, round and spiky and red in colour. Once peeled, the flesh is white and contains a black seed.
The Jackfruit is one of the most distinctive fruits of Asia. Known as Khnol in the Khmer language, jackfruit is a large, oval fruit with a light-green, spiky skin. When cut open jackfruits emit a sweet, perfumed odour and the bright yellow flesh surrounding the seeds is eaten.
Known as Mean in the Khmer language, longan is another small, round, sweet tropical fruit. Longans have a rather drab, beige skin colouring, but once peeled the flesh is clear white and very sweet. Inside the fruit harbours a hard black seed. Longans are usually sold in bunches with the stalks still attached.
The mangosteen is a very distinctive looking fruit with a smooth, dark-red almost black skin. The top of the fruit has a small floral pattern near the stem. The skin is relatively thick and it is best to slice the fruit open with a knife. Once opened the white flesh is revealed in segments. Meangkhout as they are known in Khmer, have a very sweet flavour when fully ripened.
Called Lahong in Khmer, papaya has a unique oblong shape. The skin of the papaya is smooth and when the fruit is young it is green in colour, turning to reddish-yellow as it ripens. The inner flesh is light-red and sweet.
Known as Chék in the Khmer language, bananas grow plentifully in Cambodia and hence are a staple dietary item. When you stroll through the markets in Cambodia you will notice that there are many varieties of this popular fruit. As well as being consumed as fresh fruit and used in desserts, other popular ways of eating banana include deep-fried and sun dried. In addition to being a food source bananas are used as offerings during religious ceremonies.
The pineapple (Manoa in Khmer) is well-known to most tourists and grows abundantly in Cambodia. The spiky outer skin is covered in “eyes”. When fully ripe, pineapples exude a fragrant sweet odour. As well as being eaten raw as fresh fruit, pineapples are also used extensively in Cambodian cooking.
Rambutans have a very distinctive appearance, the outer skin being a reddish shell and covered in soft, thick hairs. The inner flesh is translucent white, which is very sweet and juicy and contains a smooth seed. Like longans, rambutans are normally sold in bunches with the stems attached.
Watermelons are a popular, refreshing fruit found throughout Cambodia. Cambodians call the fruit Owlock and the watermelons come in a variety of sizes, shapes and flesh colours. You will find plenty of watermelons for sale at the local markets.
Known as the queen of tropical fruits, the mango is probably the best loved tropical fruit worldwide. Buddha prized mangoes so much he was given a grove to meditate in. Indians consider it sacred.
The coconut, known as Dong in Khmer, is another staple of the Cambodian diet. Vendors are often seeing pulling carts laden with these fruit through the streets. The juice of the coconut is an extremely refreshing drink and the inner flesh is sweet when the fruit is young. In addition the flesh is often used in cooking.
The durian, or Thouren as it is known in Khmer, is sometimes referred to as the “King” of tropical fruits. Its odour is so unique that hotels and airlines ban customers from carrying the durian and many foreigners cannot bring themselves to sample the flesh – but it is well worth it! Durian can grow into large, oblong shaped fruit with the green skin covered in hard, short spikes. When split open, the inner yellow flesh is revealed. Inside the creamy flesh are large seeds. As well as eaten fresh, durian is also cooked into a paste and used in desserts.
Some guide books say Cambodia’s cuisine is nothing to write home about and a poorer cousin to Thai and Vietnamese cuisines. Now, that is completely untrue.
A thousand years ago the Khmer Kingdom, which centred on Angkor, ruled an empire that included most of south-east Asia.
Hence, many of the Thai and other regional dishes have their roots in Khmer cooking from that time!
While there are similarities, Cambodian cuisine should be taken in its own right.
Due to its tropical climate, Southeast Asia has a large number of native aromatic plants, most of which are preferred fresh in local cuisine. All these herbs feature prominently in at least some of the Cambodian dishes. Basil, coriander leaves and mint are popular as a fragrant decoration.
In Cambodia spice usage is less dominant than in neighbouring Thailand.
Get to know some of the traditional Cambodian ingredients: