Food beyond-banh-cambodia-food

Published on August 1st, 2014 | by Eliza Elliott

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BEYOND THE BANH MI: 8 OF VIETNAM AND CAMBODIA’S BEST STREET FOODS

Read time: a bit over 3 minutes

Photo courtesy of Paul Galow, Flickr

Discounting Vietnam’s more popular edible exports – pho, bánh mì, vermicelli salads and summer rolls, our knowledge of Vietnamese cuisine is pretty limited. Same goes for the food of neighbouring Cambodia – unless you’ve been, you probably won’t know all that much about the cuisine.

We figured we’d try and round up some of Vietnam and Cambodia’s most delicious and lesser-known food options, so you can impress your mates with all your foodie knowledge. Cambodia isn’t really famous for its food, but as a country that was once rich in spices and quality produce before it was ravaged by civil war, it has the bones of a gastronomic powerhouse.

Next time you find yourself in one of these awesome destinations, take a stroll to the nearest market or street vendor, pull up a plastic stool, grab a cold beer, take a deep breath and ask for one of the following.

Cambodia

Nom bahn chok – Khmer noodles

One of Cambodia’s most beloved dishes, nom bahn chok is a breakfast staple. Take rice noodles, add a fish-based green curry sauce made from turmeric, lemongrass and kaffir lime, finish with fresh mint, banana flower, cucumber, bean sprouts, green beans and a combination of other fresh greens. Bingo: nom bahn chok.

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Kdam cha

A dish worth travelling to Cambodia’s southern towns of Kampot and Kep for, kdam cha is, basically, fried crab. Whole crabs are stir fried with locally grown fresh Kampot peppers (a world-renowned pepper among gourmet types) and garlic cloves. Cracking into the crab and hunting down the best morsels of meat among the delicious pungent sauce is perhaps one of life’s greatest pleasures.

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Red tree ants with beef and holy basil

A most delicious dish of garlic, shallots, ginger, lemongrass, chili, finely sliced beef, and of course the slightly sour red ants that the dish is named for. A relatively easy dish for foreign palettes to enjoy, especially considering the inclusion of, y’know, red ants, this one’s a real treat.

red tree ants

Vietnam

Cha ca

This concoction originated in Hanoi but has since spread south. Cha ca is made up of morsels of flakey white fish marinated in turmeric, galangal, garlic and shallots. It’s then fried and served with lashings of fresh dill, roasted peanuts, fresh mint, lettuce, and a selection of dipping sauces. So much yes.

chaca

Bahn xeo

This dish may be more familiar, but bahn xeo, Vietnam’s answer to France’s galette, hasn’t found as much popularity as the likes of banh mi and pho outside of Vietnam.

Bahn xeo is essentially crispy savoury pancake made with rice flour, turmeric and water. It’s stuffed with pork, prawns, green onion and bean sprouts and served wrapped in crunchy lettuce or bahn trang wrappers (the edible rice paper used for summer rolls) with fresh herbs and a sweet and sour fish sauce. Locals love it, and we do too.

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Ga nuong

A pretty solid example of the foolproof simplicity of Vietnamese cuisine, this popular creation is straight-up grilled chicken. Street Vendors across Vietnam create their own variations, but when it comes down to it, ga nuong is essentially marinated chicken that is charred on a hot grill. Hunt down the best in town and you’ll be back every day, forever.

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Bahn khot

A specialty of the former fishing village, Vang Tau, bahn khot is a small savoury pancake that does very little for the eye but wonders for the palate.  Made with rice flour, coconut milk, spring onion and prawns, and topped with pork floss and fresh spring onion, these little pancakes are a simple delight. Again served with crisp lettuce and an array of fresh herbs, dipping sauce and green papaya, bahn khot is another example of Vietnamese simplicity.

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Bot chein

Another staple on the streets in Vietnam, bot chien is simply fried rice cake served with egg. The cubed gelatinous rice cake becomes crispy when it is fried, and the egg is pretty much just an egg. Served with salty soy and fresh crisp vegetables, bot chien is a cheap favourite among local university students and hungry travellers alike.

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About the Author

Writing about travel is an excellent form of torture. Excellent because, writing about travel. Torture because, writing about travel. But I can’t complain too much. I got to spend a good many years gallivanting around, eating the food, seeing the things and sleeping in odd positions. Now every time the FOMO gets too intense, I just channel my wanderlust into bad travel adjectives. SAY NO TO AZURE.



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