Many people have told me that they were disappointed with the food in Cambodia. To them, the food in Cambodia just wasn’t interesting, and it wasn’t special.
I can’t say I agree. Yes, there were many similarities between Khmer cuisine to other Asian cuisines (such as Thai), but that’s because Khmer culture pre-dates Thai culture and Thai cuisine is wide-spread among the western world where as Khmer cuisine is just being re-discovered. We think them similar only because we’ve first tried one of them.
So, what was I particularly impressed with? Baguettes.
While baguettes were not the only Khmer cuisine there is, I liked it so much that I am dedicating a post to it.
I was in love with this simple French legacy that the Cambodians themselves still love. Go for a walk around the markets early in the morning and you’ll catch the familiar whiff of fresh bread lingering in the air among the spices and car fumes. Rolls and rolls of baguettes stacked to the brim are a reminder that the French really was here, except the locals have added their own flavours to it.
Buy them plain at 4 baguettes for USD1, or get one stuffed with grilled meat and topped with pickled carrots and radish salad for the same price. Such simple combination creates a palette of sensation: the crunchy bread crust, soft and fluffy bread inners among the smoky grilled meat mellowed by the vinegar of the pickled vegetables.
If I couldn’t find a stall that sold these magic baguette sandwiches, I was happy to eat them plain for baguettes sold at markets were all baked in the morning, and there was nothing that could step between me and fresh bread.