Every national cuisine has its signature dish and in Cambodia it is prahok.
Prahok is a strong, pungent, fermented fish paste that’s been used to flavour Khmer dishes for centuries. Cambodians swear by it and use it in everything from dips and soups, through to a simple accompaniment for rice. Reports suggest that 95% of Cambodians eat the delicacy, so it is no surprise that the practice of making it has passed down from generation to generation.
The Fisheries Department believe that in some areas 10% of fish caught are set aside for the manufacture of prahok. The paste is made by stomping on hundreds of small fish and fish heads in a large bucket. Once the fish is transformed into a thick brown paste it’s left in the sun for a day to ferment. Salt is then added and the paste is put in jars and sold. Locals suggest that prahok can be eaten after a month of maturation, but most consider the paste to be at its best after a few years. This is a Cambodian delicacy, like sushi or Parmesan cheese, and may taste a bit unusual at first, it is something of an acquired taste (if you can get past the smell).