Khmer (Cambodian) cuisine emphasizes herbs and spices with minimal use of fats and meats. Fish is the primary protein source in this type of cooking, and fermented fish paste, called prahok, is a signature of Khmer food. Rice and fresh vegetables are also primary components of Khmer dishes.
Khmer food is traditionally salty and bitter. Cambodians use acidity, not only to balance sweetness, but to enjoy on its own, as in unripe fruit, pickles and tamarind. Common spices in Khmer food include cardamom, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and turmeric, and the cuisine also uses indigenous herbs such as lemongrass, galangal, garlic, shallots, cilantro and kaffir lime.
Rice is a staple of Khmer cuisine, and it is generally eaten in large portions at almost every meal. Cambodians enrich stews, curries and braises with coconut milk, and, if used, they slice or mince meat and add it in small quantities to flavor other dishes. Cambodians also create a blend with all the spices and herbs for a particular dish, which is called a "kroeung" and is the foundation of most Cambodian cooking.
Khmer food incorporates influences from both Indian cuisine (blending spice pastes) and Chinese cuisine (stir fry, steaming, smoking meats), though it is very much unique to Cambodia.