Unveiling the Hidden Culinary Gems: Discover the Unknown Delicacies of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia

As a travel writer and food enthusiast, I have always sought to explore the lesser-known aspects of a country’s cuisine. Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, three Southeast Asian nations brimming with cultural richness, offer a treasure trove of hidden culinary delights. In this article, we will embark on a gastronomic journey to uncover the three best unknown dishes in these countries, providing not only a glimpse into their vibrant food culture but also the recipes to recreate these tantalizing flavors at home.

Vietnam: Bun Mam – Fermented Fish Soup with Rice Vermicelli

Vietnam’s culinary landscape goes far beyond pho and banh mi. In the Mekong Delta region, the lesser-known Bun Mam reigns as a flavor-packed dish that will awaken your taste buds. This robust soup combines fermented fish, rice vermicelli, shrimp, pork, and an array of vegetables, creating a harmonious symphony of flavors. Here’s how you can prepare this hidden gem:

How to cook Bun Mam


    • 200g fermented fish (mam ca sac)
    • 200g pork belly, thinly sliced
    • 200g shrimp, peeled and deveined
    • 200g rice vermicelli noodles
    • 2 tomatoes, sliced
    • 1 eggplant, sliced
    • 1 pineapple, diced
    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • Fresh herbs (Thai basil, cilantro, mint) for garnish
    • Lime wedges and chili peppers (optional) for serving


    1. In a pot, heat some oil and sauté the minced garlic and chopped onion until fragrant.
    2. Add the fermented fish, pork belly, and shrimp. Cook until the pork is lightly browned.
    3. Pour in enough water to cover the ingredients. Add the tomatoes, eggplant, and pineapple.
    4. Season with fish sauce and sugar. Simmer for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
    5. Cook the rice vermicelli noodles according to the package instructions.
    6. To serve, place a portion of rice vermicelli in a bowl and ladle the hot soup over it.
    7. Garnish with fresh herbs. Serve with lime wedges and chili peppers on the side for extra heat.

    Laos: Or Lam – Spicy Stew with Wild Herbs and Meat

    Laos, a landlocked country with a rich culinary heritage, is home to Or Lam, a traditional dish that exemplifies the country’s love for bold flavors. Combining an assortment of wild herbs, vegetables, and meat, this spicy stew promises a symphony of textures and aromas. Let’s dive into the recipe:


    • 500g pork, beef, or chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 1 cup mixed wild herbs (lemongrass, dill, galangal leaves, basil, etc.)
    • 2 tablespoons fermented fish paste (pa daek)
    • 2 shallots, finely chopped
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 4 small eggplants, quartered
    • 4 small chili peppers, sliced
    • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
    • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • Salt to taste


    1. In a large pot, heat some oil and sauté the chopped shallots and minced garlic until fragrant.
    2. Add the meat and brown it on all sides.
    3. Stir in the fermented fish paste and continue cooking for a few minutes.
    4. Pour in enough water to cover the meat. Add the wild herbs, eggplants, and chili peppers.
    5. Season with fish sauce, tamarind paste, sugar, and salt. Stir well to combine.
    6. Simmer the stew on low heat for about 1.5 to 2 hours until the meat is tender and the flavors meld together.
    7. Adjust the seasoning if needed.
    8. Serve Or Lam hot with steamed rice.

    Cambodia: Nom Banh Chok – Cambodian Rice Noodles with Fish Curry

    Nom Banh Chok, a beloved Cambodian dish, showcases the country’s culinary prowess. This unique breakfast delight features fresh rice noodles topped with a flavorful fish-based curry sauce and an array of fresh herbs and vegetables. Here’s how you can savor the taste of Cambodia in your own kitchen:


    • 500g fresh rice noodles
    • 500g white fish fillets (snakehead fish or catfish)
    • 2 tablespoons yellow curry paste
    • 2 cups coconut milk
    • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
    • Fresh vegetables (bean sprouts, cucumber, banana blossom, etc.) for garnish
    • Fresh herbs (mint, cilantro, Thai basil) for garnish
    • Lime wedges and chili peppers (optional) for serving

    How to cook Khmer noodles

    1. In a pot, combine the yellow curry paste and coconut milk. Bring it to a simmer over medium heat.
    2. Add the fish fillets and cook until they are fully cooked and flaky. Remove the fish from the pot and set it aside.
    3. Add fish sauce, sugar, and tamarind paste to the curry sauce. Stir well and let it simmer for another 10 minutes.
    4. Cook the rice noodles according to the package instructions.
    5. To serve, place a portion of rice noodles in a bowl. Ladle the fish curry sauce over the noodles.
    6. Top with fresh vegetables and herbs.
    7. Serve Nom Banh Chok with lime wedges and chili peppers on the side for additional flavor and heat.


    Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia not only enchant travelers with their breathtaking landscapes and rich history but also captivate food enthusiasts with their hidden culinary treasures. From the pungent flavors of Bun Mam in Vietnam to the fiery allure of Or Lam in Laos and the aromatic charm of Nom Banh Chok in Cambodia, these lesser-known dishes invite you to embark on a gastronomic adventure that will leave your taste buds forever grateful.