Jul 11 2011

Phnom Penh street food: Nom banh chok

Published by at 2:59 pm under Street food

Nom banh chok is a quintessential Khmer dish, loved by locals and tourists alike. The dish, which is similar to Thai kanom jeen, consists of rice noodles topped with a green fish gravy and heaps of fresh green beans, bean sprouts, banana flower, cucumbers and other greens. The noodles are laboriously made in the provinces and delivered to the local markets early each morning. (The excellent Asian food blog Eating Asia has a two-part post about the process of making nom banh chok noodles.)

Khmer and try the nom banh chok, it's delicious!

The dish is so ubiquitous that in English it’s called “Khmer noodles” and most Cambodians are convinced that the Khmers invented this type of noodle and all of the other countries in Asia with similar noodles stole the idea from them.

The dish is a typical breakfast food, and you’ll find nom banh chok being sold in the early mornings at stands on the street all over Phnom Penh for less than a dollar. It also makes for a nice mid-afternoon snack, and at that time of day you can find it being sold by women walking around carrying the ingredients hanging off a pole across their shoulders. They carry bowls with them as well, and wait patiently for you to finish eating. There’s also a fancy red curry version that is often served at weddings and rarely on the street. You can find both versions being sold by a remarkably friendly woman at a stall in Russian Market (Psar Toul Tom Pong).

Although these days the dish is usually sold by women, it was traditionally sold by men, as recounted in Narin Seng Jameson’s cookbook about life in Phnom Penh before the Khmer Rouge, Cooking the Cambodian Way. There’s even a hilarious song about two nom banh chok sellers battling to be the king of nom banh chok.

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4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Phnom Penh street food: Nom banh chok”

  1. Kristinaon 11 Jul 2011 at 9:09 pm

    Oh I loved Nom Banh Chok! Our guesthouse in Siem Reap made their own version for breakfast and I could not get enough. There’s a place in Siem Reap, the intersection of four main roads outside of town with a bunch of Nom Bahn Chok stalls/restaurants (I wrote about it here http://www.wired2theworld.com/2010/10/26/eating-like-a-local-in-cambodia-noodles-morning-glory-insects-oh-my/) which may be the same place Eating Asia had it. Eating noodles for breakfast is one of the things I miss most after I come home from a trip to South East Asia.

  2. Kavitaon 15 Aug 2011 at 7:28 pm

    Can you suggest more street food for people who are vegetarians. I mean to say food without fish and meat of any kind. Name the dish which has noodles with vegetables.
    Any sweet dish which is commonly available?
    What about the ability of fresh fruits – name few

  3. Linaon 16 Aug 2011 at 6:53 pm

    There are very few street food items that are truly vegetarian — most have fish sauce or some other small bit of fish in it. There are grilled bananas and desserts, see my most recent post here: http://www.travelfish.org/blogs/phnompenh/2011/08/phnom-penh-street-food-coconut-milk-desserts/

  4. [...] them serve until they run out at around nine. One of the most popular breakfasts — in addition to Khmer noodles — is bai sach chrouk, or pork with rice. This is my favourite Cambodian breakfast, and possibly my [...]

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