How To Travel As A Vegan In Cambodia
Updated: Oct 8, 2019
Do you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet? Are you lactose intolerant? Gluten-free? Allergic to peanuts? Check out my blog on how you can manage to eat as you travel the wonderful destination of Cambodia!
Since returning from travelling Asia I have now committed to a vegan lifestyle and can't wait to go back to enjoy all of the fresh produce all over again. Read on to learn more.
“The most ethical diet just so happens to be the most environmentally sound diet and just so happens to be the healthiest.” – Dr. Michael Greger
Cambodia has some of the most wonderful vegan-friendly food and a delicious traditional cuisine. With so many restaurants it can be easy to eat out at International food places, but don't forget to enjoy the local food scene whilst you travel around Cambodia. Eating out in cafes that operate as social enterprises is a great way to support everyone in the community. Purchase produce from vendors and take a cooking class to learn about the history of Khmer food. Khmer food is often underrated, but it is fragrant, diverse and creative.
Rice is at the centre of most traditional meals with a wonderful blend of herbs and spices to go with each dish. There are local markets everywhere and they are a wonderful way to indulge in the local culture & see some kind & friendly faces. Try out the seasonal fruit & enjoy coconut water as you wander around. If you are looking to travel with a vegetarian or vegan diet when you visit Cambodia, there are so many options for you! I spent 6 months living in Siem Reap on a vegetarian diet but often chose to eat vegan; here is what I learnt.
Non-Vegan ingredients to look out for:
Fish sauce, oyster sauce, shrimp paste, fermented fish paste, egg, dried shrimp or fish are common ingredients in many traditional dishes. There is a large variety of vegan restaurants and cafes in the main cities of Cambodia that serve vegan versions of traditional meals.
Oyster sauce “preng chong”
Fish sauce “dteuk dt'ray”
Chilli sauce "dteuk m’tayh"
Soy sauce "dteuk seeve"
Soy milk beverages can also contain milk powder so it is a good idea to look for alternatives such as coconut, almond or rice milk. Coconut milk is popular and widely available. Fruit shakes or smoothies may contain milk products, so it is best to ask for coconut milk or
coconut water as an alternative.
Milk “tduk dah ko”
Packaged food and snacks including rice crackers, bread, chips and dried fruit can contain seafood or dairy products. Fresh and dried fruit is usually a safe choice.
Fruit "plai cher"
Cooking oil used for frying may not be vegan and peanut oil may also be used. If you have an allergy it is recommended you check the the chef especially if you are eating local or on the street. Vegetables may also be fried in animal oil so worth asking if you are concerned. Stocks and broths used for making soups and noodle dishes can be made from meat or fish-based ingredients. Ask for hot water in ramen or hot pot meals as an alternative.
Chicken powder “sop knah”
Wonderful spring rolls, vegetable salads or tempura meals are served with a variety of dipping sauces. If you are unsure of the ingredients, ask for a sweet chilli sauce or a soy sauce when you order. Coffee and tea may contain sweet milk such as condensed or carnation milk. This is due to a lack of refrigeration and it is a local tradition to enjoy sweet coffee. You can also order iced coffee without milk which is a great way to cool down or try a local lemon iced tea!
Coffee "gah fay g’dao"
Local meals such as fried rice often come with egg mixed through the dish or served on top so if you are avoiding egg simply ask for them not to add it to your meal.
Fried Rice “bai chaa”
Vegetable "bon lai"
The local Khmer cuisine has many beautiful traditional flavours. A local cooking class is something that everyone can add to their list of things to do and many of the schools offer an affordable and memorable experience. Rice is at the centre of Cambodian cooking and it never goes to waste. Once steamed it can also be fried or made into snacks and dessert dishes like rice pudding or a congee soup for breakfast. The history of Khmer food includes delicacies like fermented fish paste, crickets, silk worms, grilled fish, lotus root, banana flower, tamarind, morning glory and baby eggplant.
A common spice paste used to create a base for traditional curries is made with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, lemongrass, galangal and chilli; known as saramann paste. A similar paste for a different level of spice is made with lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime zest, turmeric, garlic and shallots. Seafood plays a key role in home cooking and fish amok is the traditional Cambodian dish. Amok is made from coconut milk and is a steamed dish which locks in all the flavour of this fish or chicken. Many restaurants now serve a vegetarian amok with tofu. Red or Green curries can often be prepared as a vegetable dish along with a variety of salads such as papaya, mango or a unique and delicious pomelo salad.
So, next time you are in Cambodia make sure you try out some of the local vegetarian or vegan versions of traditional dishes. Remember that Cambodian street food from hawker stalls can vary in quality and hygiene so as a tourist always go for popular places that cook to order or ask the locals what to order. Be mindful of purchasing fresh fruit, wash everything with clean bottled water. If you feel dehydrated or having been exploring in the heat I highly recommend some fresh coconut water which you can purchase all year round!
Fried Chive Cakes
Sticky Rice with Red Bean Filling
Rice Flour Breads & Donuts
My Favourite Dishes:
Vegetable Fried Rice & Stir Fry Vegetables
Indian Garlic Naan Bread with Vegetable Curry
Vegan Curry & Rice
Coconut Ice Cream
Have you been to Cambodia? What dishes did you enjoy?
Let us know in the comments!