Cambodian Culture

The Cambodian Diet

Eating then and now

The ancient Khmer diet (as now) was mainly rice and fish.  There were three crops of rice a year. The Khmers didn't fish from the sea but from the rivers and ponds.  There were many kinds of fish such as catfish, shad, gudgeon, feather back, some sharks, and many eels, clams, prawns, turtles, and also crocodile belly.  But they didn't eat frogs.

At the end of the rainy season, the water recedes; fish are trapped in drying up ponds, unable to reach the Tonle Sap River.  Generally, the Khmer people used salt for preserving fish. They transported salt from the coast and mountain mines.  At least some of the fish from the December-January harvest must have been preserved.

The Khmers did not know how to make soy sauce. They ate some fruits such as bananas, coconuts, mangoes, lichees, papayas, and oranges (but not guavas in ancient times). There were some vegetables: onions, mustard, leeks, eggplants, watermelons, squashes, cucumbers, okra, and many vegetables that grew in water. The Khmer people continue to eat lotus pods and roots and the whole of the water lilies.

They drank milk from cows and goats. Khmer people were not vegetarian because they ate meat from pig and deer as is shown in a bas-relief at Bayon. They grew some fruit trees near houses and they cleaned their teeth with small pieces of poplar wood.
                                                                                          Researched and written by Lan Sinneary

Go to Top of the Page
Go to Cambodian Culture page
Go to main Cambodia page
Go to Charlie Dittmeier's Home Page