Table etiquette in Cambodia has its own distinct rules and rituals. The idea of sharing is inherent in every element of a meal and so as is often the case in Asian family meals, everything on the table is for sharing.
When eating out it’s common practice to first wipe down your glass, plate and cutlery with a tissue. One presumes this is due to the relentless dust in the air that needs to be brushed off before the meal or removing any water remnants from cutlery that is placed in a mug of boiling water on the table. More often than not there will be a colorful plastic bin located under the table or very close by for discarded tissues.
Most common cutlery is a spoon and fork, though sometimes chopsticks are on offer too. Presented on your plate, or in a colorful holder on the table, there will often be a basket of sauces and condiments. Meals are generally made to a mild flavor with the expectation that you’ll add the flavorings you want to the level of heat you want.
On the Table Share plates are placed in the centre of the table so you can leisurely graze by picking up bites of food with your chopsticks. For curries or soups, scoop spoonfuls at a time onto your individual plate of rice. A scoop of curry or soup goes onto the rice to then spooned again to have the perfect mouthful of rice and curry before going back to the main bowl for another dip. Eat until you’re satisfied there are no rules around finishing the dish. A pot of tea, cold or hot, or a jug of water is usually on the table along with the appropriate cups, usually with ice already dispensed for each diner.
Ordering can be visual; from pots or a grill at the front of the restaurant, buffet style or by a la carte. The menu might be on the wall or as a laminated sheet or menu book. When ordering a la carte, it’s okay to ask for things not too spicy (ort herl) or too salty (ort braii). The cook will be happy to cater for your tastes. It’s the norm to call out across the restaurant to get some attention. “Oun” at the top of your lungs will likely get an attendant to your table. Likewise, ‘som kit loy’ at the end of your meal will bring the bill your way. |