Eating gluten-free in Cambodia

In common with other South-East Asian countries, Cambodian cuisine is rice-based, which means it’s relatively easy to maintain a gluten-free diet.

I have coeliac disease and eating out, especially when travelling, can be a challenge. It is always best to alert the chef to your food intolerance before ordering and it can be difficult to avoid cross-contamination.

The biggest danger is from soy sauce, which is often liberally applied to fried rice dishes and stir fries. However, as most meals are freshly prepared, ask for it to be left out or replaced by fish sauce, which is gluten-free.

Cambodian cuisine is heavily influenced by its Thai neighbours, although you will find the food tends to be milder and less diverse. You will see a lot of Thai and Western dishes on Cambodian menus.

Amok curry

Amok curry

A delicious coconut-based curry traditionally made with fish, but available with chicken or sea food. We tried this dish several times during our travels and the consistency varied widely, however you should expect it to have a mousse-like texture and served in a banana leaf with rice. The curry is quite rich so expect smaller portions, which go a long way!

Saraman curry

Saraman curry

We came across this dish in Phnom Penh and then never stumbled across it again, which is a shame as it was delicious! Similar to Thai Massaman curry and Malaysian Rendang, this dish is a delightful blend of spices, peanuts and coconut milk traditionally made with beef creating a rich and satisfying meal. Eaten with rice or bread. 

Fried rice

A great fall back for all gluten-free travellers and you will find it on pretty much every menu in Cambodia. Ask for it to be prepared without soy sauce.

Chicken satay (main picture)

Another staple of the South-East Asian cuisine and usually safe for coeliacs. It’s great as a starter but served with rice, it makes a satisfying meal.

Barbeque

In the seaside resorts such as Sihanoukville you can enjoy freshly caught and barbequed fish and seafood. Elsewhere, you can find more unusual meats, including frog, snake and crocodile. Look out for the Cambodian barbeque restaurants in Siem Reap where the barbeque is placed in the centre of the table and you get a selection of meat and vegetables to cook as you wish.

Gelato

Clearly not a traditional Cambodian dish, but gelato shops are massively popular in Siem Reap and there are some spectacular flavours to be found. Try dark chocolate and Kampot pepper gelato at Gelato Lab for a tongue-tingling treat.

Fruit smoothies

Fresh fruit smoothies are cheap, delicious and made right in front of you in Cambodia. As well as a great way to get one or two of your five-a-day, they are almost always safe for coeliacs (just be wary if the same stall makes smoothies out of Oreos or other biscuits as the mixers may not be cleaned properly). Ask for it without sugar or syrup if you don’t have a sweet tooth.

If you’re in Phnom Penh, check out My Friends Café and Bakery where they serve gluten-free pizza, sandwiches and a range of desserts!

Gluten-free pizza in Phnom Penh

Gluten-free options at My Friends Cafe and Bakery in Phnom Penh

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