What exactly is Cambodian cuisine? In a nation impoverished for over a generation by warfare and divided geographically across its diaspora, it’s difficult to surmise even what it was, let alone what it is. For example, there is still no formal Cambodian culinary curriculum taught in the Kingdom. Instead, ASEAN programs dominate hospitality training, incorporating a vast swathe of Southeast Asia fusion, while equally focusing on French technique and recipes.
A country’s cuisine is usually characterised by its trade and ethnic influences, but there’s scant of this to show in Cambodia today: little evidence of spice island trade from the former Dutch East Indies (today’s Indonesia), or seasonings from subcontinental India. The Khmer Rouge decimated Cambodia’s ethnic minorities as much as its majority Khmer population, while the ensuing years of civil war encouraged the steady emigration of all ethnicities and impaired the restoration or development of culinary arts.