Despite not having any Michelin-starred restaurants or fine-dining spaces, Battambang is known for its culinary traditions and reputation for producing the country's most delicious food. The city's cuisine is best sampled on a stroll around its variety of markets, with stops for snacks such as crunchy deep-fried bananas, award-winning rice, and turmeric-tinted pork stuffed pancakes sold at markets, roadside stalls, and rustic eateries.
Battambang's tourism and culture authorities hope that UNESCO's City of Gastronomy designation will establish Battambang, the second-largest city in Cambodia, as a destination for food lovers across the world.
For Cambodian people, Battambang province is known for its food, which is closely related to the culture of Battambangers, such as the many songs about Battambang by one of Cambodia's best singers Sinn Sisamouth.
The province is also famous for its fertile soils, picturesque countryside dotted with lofty sugar palms and traditional timber houses, and lush rice fields where farmers cultivate the famed phka rumdoul variety of fragrant jasmine rice, crowned the world's best rice last year for the fifth time.
Visitors can sample Battambang's cuisine by strolling around the vibrant markets and sampling snacks such as crunchy deep-fried bananas speckled with black and white sesame seeds and piping-hot coconut custard puddings cooked on clay braziers by smiling women clad in comfortable pyjamas or bespectacled men in pork-pie hats.
Those who have a local food tour guide can slurp freshly made rice noodles doused in herbaceous curries at boisterous locals-only breakfast eateries, perch on plastic stools at street-side stalls selling fresh spring rolls, turmeric-tinted minced-pork stuffed pancakes, and smoky grilled beef skewers tucked into baguettes, or even score an invitation for a home-cooked feast of traditional countryside fare.
The recognition from UNESCO is a great start for Battambang, which has its own style of food inspired by Thai cuisine but with its unique twist. The locals are passionate about preserving their food traditions, and the UNESCO designation will encourage them to continue doing so. If you're a foodie looking for an authentic culinary experience, Battambang is definitely worth a visit.
You can fly to Siem Reap via Bangkok, and from Siem Reap, it's a three-hour bus journey to Battambang.