Herbs & Spices of Cambodia

herbs and spices of Cambodia

Due to its tropical climate, Southeast Asia has a large number of native aromatic plants, most of which are preferred fresh in local cuisine. All these herbs feature prominently in at least some of the Cambodian dishes. Basil, coriander leaves and mint are popular as a fragrant decoration.

In Cambodia spice usage is less dominant than in neighbouring Thailand.

Want to learn how to use these herbs and spices? Book a cookery course in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap or Battambang.

Get to know some of the traditional Cambodian ingredients:

Kaffir Lime

Krauch soeuch

The green lime fruit is distinguished by its bumpy exterior and its small size.

In Cambodian cooking only the rind of the fruit is used.

The juice is used in traditional medicine and women also use it to soften their hair!

Kaffir Limes - herbs and spices of Cambodia

Kaffir Lime Leaves

Slirk krote sirk

A small to large oblong leaf, pale green to dark green in color, that are grown on fruit trees producing limes.

The lime leaf is often used as a seasoning to provide a fresh citrus overtone in a variety of food dishes especially in Cambodian cooking for soups and curries.

Kaffir Lime Leaves - herbs and spices of Cambodia

Star Anise

Chan kari

A spice that comes from an eight-point star shaped pod, which originates in China and is taken from a small evergreen tree.

The pod contains a pea-sized seed in each of its points, which has a strong, sweet anise flavor.

Star anise is used to flavor both sweet and savory dishes.

 Star Anise - herbs and spices of Cambodia


Ampil khui

The fruit pulp is edible and used as a spice in Khmer cuisine.

The leaves are also distinctly tart in flavor, and are used in soups

Tamarind - herbs and spices of Cambodia


Chee van suy

A favorite herb that grows as the green leaves of the coriander plant that resemble a parsley-like green plant. Cilantro has a sharp distinctive flavor with a peppery taste.

Cilantro - herbs and spices of Cambodia



Although it looks like ginger, it varies in flavour from ginger, providing a spicy or peppery taste that may resemble a mild mustard flavor.

Galangal - herbs and spices of Cambodia



A relative of the ginger root and milder in flavour than ginger and galangal. The tubers are yellowish with a brown skin and are shaped like fingers hanging from the main body with a strong, distinctive aroma.

Fingerroot is one of the main ingredients in Cambodian curry pastes, particularly fish curry dishes like the famous Fish Amok.

Khchiey - herbs and spices of Cambodia

Jicama Root


Jicama is also called Mexican yam bean or Chinese potato. Like potatoes, jicama grows underground as a tuber.

Covered with a thin brown skin, it has a short root attached. Inside, you’ll find white flesh that looks like an apple or raw potato.

Raw jicama is sweet, juicy, and crisp, perfect as a snack vegetable.

Jicima Root - herbs and spices of Cambodia


Kuel Skey

Lemongrass is widely used as a herb in Cambodian cooking. It has a citrus flavour and can be dried and powdered, or used fresh.

The stalk itself is too hard to be eaten except for the soft inner part. However, it can be finely sliced and added to recipes.

It’s a main ingredient in the basis for curries:  ‘kroeung’ (curry paste).

Lemon grass - herbs and spices of Cambodia


Taro Root


A flavorful, starchy tuber that can range in shape from a small and kidney-shaped variety to a larger barrel shaped root, similar to a sweet potato.

Taro has an interesting, nutty flavor.

Taro root - herbs and spices of Cambodia

Rice Paddy Herb


With a lemony, citrus aroma as well as flavor, this is commonly used in seafood and fish soups such as Samlor Machou Trey, a Cambodian soup.

Also added to various other dishes as an uncooked herb seasoning.

Rice Paddy Herb - herbs and spices of Cambodia



Also known as kunyit or kurkuma. We use the fresh variant: grated and added to curry dishes.

This is the one that will give you the signature yellow fingertops when taking part in a cooking class in Cambodia!

Kurkuma or Lamiet - herbs and spices of Cambodia

Sweet Basil

Chee Korhom

A leafy, green herb that is a member of the mint family of plants, providing an intense but sweet and subtle flavor.

Containing a fragrance similar to cloves, basil can be dried and used during months when it may not be available in some regions, but it provides the most flavor when served fresh.

Sweet Basil - herbs and spices of Cambodia

Asian Coriander

Chee bonla

In English this is usually referred to as saw leaf herb, or long coriander and belongs to the same plant family as coriander, but the plant’s shape does not bear much resemblance.

Yet the long, tough leaves exemanate a fragrance very much similar to coriander’s aroma

Asian Coriander - herbs and spices of Cambodia

Water Spinach

Traw Kuon

This leafy plant, also known as swamp cabbage or morning glory, is actually a herb. It grows in marshy areas.

In some parts of Asia, the stems are pickled, but in Cambodia, only the leaves and tender shoots are eaten.

The flavour is similar to that of spinach.

Water Spinach - herbs and spices of Cambodia

M’rum, M’reah, Angkeadei and Kantrup

These four herbs are essential in the ancient Khmer recipe for Samlor Kor Ko.

From left to right: M’rum, M’reah, Angkeadei and Kantrup.

There’s no English translation for these herbs.

M'rum - herbs and spices of Cambodia M'reah - herbs and spices of Cambodia Angkeadei - herbs and spices of Cambodia Kantrup - herbs and spices of Cambodia