A thousand years ago the Khmer Kingdom, which centered on Angkor, ruled an empire that included most of southeast Asia. Hence, many of the dishes made famous by Thai and Vietnamese kitchens have their roots in Khmer dishes from that time.
The Khmer recipes being revived today go back to the days before the introduction of the chili, so are subsequently much milder than most Asian food. The chili was unknown in Asia until the 16th century when it arrived with the Portuguese. Modern Khmer cuisine takes some of the best qualities from Chinese, Indian and Thai cuisines and blends them into a unique and delicious culinary experience.
Rice remains a main staple in current day cuisine, being eaten as often as three times a day with noodles as an alternative. The Great Lake (Tonle Sap) and the sea are still the main provider of protein in the Cambodian diet, providing bountiful amounts seafood and fish, although meats such as beef, pork or chicken are also eaten, albeit in much small quantities, and are usually sliced or minced and used more as a flavouring.
Fresh vegetables and fruit are also widely used as ingredients as are, lime juice and coconut milk and both fish sauce and fish paste (prahok), all of which give Cambodian food its unique flavour. Kaffir lime, galangal, turmeric, garlic, lemon grass, tamarind and ginger are common spices used in cooking and together create a subtle balance of salty, sweet, sour and bitter making it one of the world's most interesting, healthiest and balanced cuisines.
A typical Cambodian meal today normally consists of a soup, a salad, a main fish dish, vegetables and rice. Cambodian desserts are normally based on fresh fruits and sticky rice.
Desserts are typically puddings or other delicacies based on either bananas or rice. Num Treap, sticky rice with toasted sesame seeds, is a favored dessert in Cambodian cuisine.
Num Treap (Sticky Rice with Sesame Seeds)
1 cup sweet jasmine rice
1 cup water
2/3 cup coconut milk
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon banana or vanilla extract
4 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Place Jasmine rice and water in a saucepan bring to the boil then reduce heat; cover and cook very gently for about 15 minutes or until the rice is just cooked.
While the rice is cooking, place the coconut milk, sugar, salt and vanilla extract in a large saucepan and cook over a medium-high heat until it thickens, stirring frequently.
Fluff the rice with a fork to separate. Add rice to the coconut sauce in the other pan, and mix well.
Spread the mixture into a shallow dish or baking pan and sprinkle sesame seeds on top, pressing them down with a wooden spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to set for few hours.
Cut into squares after it cools for a few hours, and then serve.
Adapted from www.recipes4us.co/uk