One of the best ways to truly understand a country is through its food, as it reflects the culture and the people who make it. During our visit to Phnomh Penh, we were fortunate to have an incredibly passionate food enthusiast as our guide, who referred to herself as a “true foodie”. She took us on a culinary adventure through the city.
Neara, our guide, shared some intriguing stories with us. She mentioned that she was in her early thirties and had a difficult upbringing, growing up in the years after the genoicide.
For instance, she shared a story about her father, who used to work in the fields during the period of the genocide. When there was nothing else to eat besides rice stew or rice pudding, he would collect frogs in the fields and cook them quietly at night. It was a dangerous act as it was against the regime in power at the time.
It’s fascinating how frogs are still part of the local diet, reminding us of the hardships people faced during those days when they had very little money and had to be resourceful with their food choices.
The tour itself was excellent, and we found it on a website.
It took us from experiencing traditional Cambodian cuisine to trying modern fusion dishes.
We savored the dishes there, and by this point, we were already quite full. We even packed some leftovers to bring home for our guide, Neara, and our driver to share with their families.
Finally, at our sixth and last destination, we visited a startup building where multiple businesses operated. We enjoyed some delightful cocktails infused with local herbs and spices.
However, the highlight of the tour was our guide, Neara. She was incredibly generous with her time and opened up about her life experiences.
She shared with us that in the aftermath of the genocide, people hurriedly returned to the city, seeking any available housing. Her mother chose a place near the city, which wasn’t highly sought after at the time. Now, like many inner-city areas, it has become a vibrant and popular location.
These are the wonderful personal conversations you can experience on something like a food tour, that you might not read about in official publications or more formal tour groups.
We had engaging conversations with Neara, and we found her to be a charming and captivating guide throughout the tour.