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Street eats: the delights of borbor snacks

Borbor samrop with grilled fish and salted egg. SARAH BROWN
Borbor samrop with grilled fish and salted egg. SARAH BROWN

Street eats: the delights of borbor snacks

Foodies far and wide consider Southeast Asia to be home to some of the world’s most delicious street eats, yet with so many international dining options in Siem Reap, it is easy to forget the local delicacies available around every corner.

Foodies far and wide consider Southeast Asia to be home to some of the world’s most delicious street eats, yet with so many international dining options in Siem Reap, it is easy to forget the local delicacies available around every corner.

And where better to start than with one of many people’s most beloved incarnation of the ubiquitous white rice: borbor.

Borbor is Khmer rice porridge and is most commonly made with just two ingredients: white rice and water.

“First you must carefully clean the rice, and then add it to boiling water,” instructs Lyly, 46, owner of a large local restaurant on Sivutha. ““It is important to stir the rice every 10-15 minutes so that it softens properly. After half an hour it can be eaten, but if you leave it longer the rice will get stickier and the borbor will get thicker. That’s when it tastes the best.”

While regular borbor sor (white rice porridge) is somewhat bland, it is served with flavourful grilled dried fish, salted eggs, or pork intestines which add a little more interest.

“That’s why people eat borbor outside of their home” explains Lyly. “All Cambodian people know how to make borbor, but making delicious accompaniments is more complicated and takes more time.” Unusually Lyly also serves borbor samrop, which is made with brown rice. But she adds that borbor sor and borbor samrop are both delicious, as long as the rice is fresh and recently harvested.

Other types of borbor in Siem Reap include borbor kreung, which has an aromatic Khmer spice paste stirred through it during cooking, along with pieces of either chicken, fish, or pork.

For those needing a sugar fix there is also borbor skor, a sweet rice porridge made with white rice, water, and palm sugar.

Lyly notes that, “Borbor is traditionally eaten for breakfast, however now lots of young people like to stop by and eat it on their way home from a night out. Cambodian people also like borbor because they believe it is good for the body, especially if you are ill. It is easy to eat and soothing if you feel unwell.”

Aside from Lyly’s popular restaurant, borbor is available from countless Cambodian restaurants throughout the city, as well as many small mobile food carts. Bon appetite!

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