Nom banh chok, the quintessential Cambodian street food

When coming to Cambodia, visitors will be attracted by the rustic and extremely unique cuisine of the Cambodian people. Nom banh chok is considered by the people here as the soul food of the nation and can be eaten at any time. It can be a main meal or a snack. Used to be afraid of soft, flexible, fragrant vermicelli mixed with greasy curry. When eating cowpeas and lotus roots, they are crispy and delicious, giving users a feeling of enjoyment. Let’s learn more about this unique dish of Cambodian street food with Passionate Travel!


”The national soul dish” in the country of Cambodia

Nom banh chok is a lightly fermented noodle dish and a Cambodian breakfast dish. Traveling to the city of Phnom Penh, it is not difficult to see the voices of women and sisters carrying vermicelli on the streets. Cambodians eat Nom banh chok at any time. Perhaps from childhood, they fell in love with soft noodles with attractive curry-scented broth. Again, there are cowpeas and crispy lotus roots, adding a little spicy chili, thinking about it makes me crave it.

A vendor of Nom banh chok at one end is a basket containing fresh vegetables, including banana flowers, papaya, lotus root, cowpea, celery, little herbs, mint leaves, lemon, and gourd, all are covered with a large lotus leaf. At the other end is a jar of white fish curry sauce, fatty, sweet, and strong, giving off a very attractive aroma.


Folk legends about nom banh chok

Nom Banh Chok follows a famous Khmer folk legend about a revolutionary and famous scholar named Thonchey. Thonchey was exiled by the Khmer king to China and it was here that he began to create nom Banh Chok to make a living. This dish quickly became popular among the Chinese and even attracted the attention of the Chinese emperor. The emperor summoned Thonchey to bring nom Banh Chok to the palace. Thonchey had just arrived just as the emperor was tasting this dish when Thonchey accidentally saw the emperor’s face, was guilty of blasphemy, and was immediately imprisoned. Soon after that, Thonchey managed to get out of prison and return to the Khmer Empire.


How to make nom banh chok

Nom Banh Chok is made by soaking the rice for 2 to 4 hours and then grinding it into a viscous liquid. This paste is pressed into a round shape and dried inside a calico bag. Then, the cook will grind it into a powder and turn it into a thick paste, and then push it into boiling water. Noodles are boiled for 3-4 minutes and transferred to cold water

Cambodian street food


The secret to making the food magical

Nom banh chok broth is the secret to making the dish magical. Khmer people in Cambodia consider Banh chok as a specialty used to treat guests to their home, and as the main ingredient for cooking broth in vermicelli dishes. Fish sauce is made from the main ingredient sweet fish, along with other spices such as salt, sugar, pepper, garlic, chili, and cold rice. According to a certain ratio, through the hands of the Khmer people have created a unique, long-standing traditional fish sauce in the world.

Looking at the steaming bowls of vermicelli noodles, and the fragrance floating on the street vendors, few people know that the ingredients to make it are cooked from fish sauce and do not have a fishy smell. Nom banh chok is still delicious, the taste is salty and sweet. Especially, Cambodian vermicelli does not have solder, so it is often less flexible and chewy than vermicelli in other places. When eating, it seems more powdery and sticky to the hand, but makes the eater feel much safer and more appetizing.

Cambodian street food


Features of the dish

Perhaps it is the dear image of the women who are responsible for carrying each row of vermicelli for a living, along with the sweet aroma of the vermicelli pot that has made many visitors not hesitate to stop and enjoy the rich flavor right away. To have a pot of broth like that, with a sweet aroma, the secret lies in fish bank chok, a specialty of the Khmer people only used to treat guests.

When a customer wants to eat, the seller quickly puts the load to sit down, planning banana flowers quickly. The first is a layer of herbs on the bottom. After that, lotus root and cowpea, add shredded papaya, cover with a layer of vermicelli, and then carefully scoop the golden fish curry sauce with a rich, rich flavor of lemongrass, broth, and yellow turmeric and sprinkle it on top of the vermicelli. Finally, sprinkle the banana flower layer on top. Curry water only penetrates, so that when mixed well, the water clings enough to the vermicelli and vegetables. The sweet aroma and rich taste of the rustic noodle dish make any diners feel hungry after eating.

Cambodian street food

If you have the opportunity to visit Cambodia, don’t be afraid to sit down in the middle of the crowded street and eat a bowl of vermicelli Nom banh chok to see the unique features of the street food here. Let’s also Passionate Travel discover Cambodia’s food and culture when booking a tour HERE


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