Khmer style fruit with salt is one of those food combinations that sounds wrong and frankly should not work, but work it does. In fact it reminds of the famous lie from Sex Lives of the Potato Men – “I like toffee and I like apples, but I don’t like toffee apples”. Thus I love salt and I love mango, but I really should not love salt with mango.
I digress, but watch Sex Lives of the Potato Men, it is really funny .
Anyway to Khmer Style Fruit with Salt.
Khmer Style Fruit with salt
So, this is no fringe thing, when you see Cambodian people eating cut up bits of fruit they do it with a little bag of salt and you can literally find it everywhere. In fact it is not just fruit that gets the salt treatment. When you get a boiled egg it comes with it, hell everything seems to come with the little salt baggy. It has a very unique taste you might say! Almost as if there is more than just mere salt….
What is the salt with salt with fruit!
Said bag has white bits in it, but also red bits, and other bits, and from what my Khmer friends tell me varies in quality and taste depending on where you get it from. I shall though give a baseline for what the usual ingredients are.
What is in the salt might seem like a weird question, but when you have live in China, the only place in the world that can make cost effective “fake salt” it really is not all that weird.
The Khmer salt bag, known in Khmer as Ombel bok = អំបិលបុក). It contains salt, dry chili, tiny bits of dry shrimp and MSG. Ohhhhh noon MSG Isn’t MSG bad for you? I honestly have no idea why people get so pumped about how bad MSG is. China are by and large a healthy bunch, they eat MSG. MSG tastes great, so you know, get over it. There are again as I said many other variations of this that can include garlic, other bits of fish and well sellers choice. This pretty much a dish in its own right. There is some similarities with the whole salt/lime/Kampot pepper gig that you get served with a lot of street food.
To read a guide to Kampot click here .
And what fruits are used for salt with fruit?
Again pretty much everything, or at least most fruits that are available in Cambodia. I’ve had it with grapes, olives, pomelo, tamarind and a ton of Khmer fruits whose names I don’t even know. But, and in my humble opinion anyway the two best are salt with mango and salt with pineapple.
Want to know the difference between a grapefruit and a pomelo? click here .
Generally speaking salt with fruit works when the fruit has a tang to it, like pineapple and mango.
Salt with Mango
I love mango, a love affair that started when I was in Palawan, surely home to the worlds best mangoes. Said love affair was largely formed by ye cocktails I had whilst island hopping, but we would also have fruit with every island hopping lunch. OK i’m veering off topic.
Salt with mango can come in two main forms, although it comes in many a form. Unripe green sale mango, which tastes you’d expect, but is very good. Yet it is the ripe mango that recently (like today) set my taste buds to orgasmic levels. You get the perfection of a mango, but with the salt bag taste sensation. Yep it should not work, but the two contrasting flavors just work!
In fact the closest word type conception it reminded me of was when I had street food in Chetumal, Mexico. There I tried a “Chamoyada”. This consisted of strawberries, salt, hot sauce and a whole range of crazy shit. Again though it worked somewhat.
To read about street food in Chetumal click here .
And where can one get fruit with salt in Cambodia?
Well here in lies the good news! You can get it bloody everywhere! Most good street food areas have places that sell a variation of it where the fruit is even mildly pickled. Others will just sell you the fruit cut up with the salt bag, but hey this is very much a thing in Cambodia, and particularly in Phnom Penh. Down by the riverside being one of the best places to relax with a fruity MSG based taste bud sensation.
To read about hanging by the riverside click here .
And there you go, Fruit with salt AKA Ombel bok អំបិលបុក – one of my new favorite street food dishes in Cambodia, and one that shall certainly be added to my Phnom Penh street food list.
To read about the bets street food in Phnom Penh click here .