It’s the time of the year in Cambodia when everyone’s having epic reunions with their families and creating beautiful memories together. As the Kingdom celebrates Khmer New Year days from now, all Buddhist followers are probably all ready to wear their traditional dresses, go to pagodas and bring their offerings for their ancestors.
Aside from these traditions, Khmers never forget to prepare traditional cakes as one of the highlights of the feast. The cakes, which comes in different shapes and with different ingredients, symbolise a part of Cambodia’s culture. They are also prepared and eaten on other religious ceremonies and festivals, but they’re more common during Khmer New Year celebrations.
However, these traditional cakes have somehow been taken for granted by the present generation. Not all young people eat traditional cakes, let alone know how to cook one.
Chantheara Inn, whose passion is in making Cambodian cakes, took the risk by putting up her own shop two years ago. ‘Neal’ – a classical instrument to measure weight – raises the bar high in traditional cake-making. Inn assures that her shop upholds cleanliness, safety, standard quality, attention to ingredients and sustainable cooking.
Inn says ‘Neal’ becomes very busy during Khmer New Year. Her shop gets several orders from customers in Phnom Penh and other provinces as everyone gets ready to welcome another year of prosperity.
Youth Today visits the shop and talks with Nhem Sothy, sales manager of Neal Khmer, about the four kinds of traditional Cambodian cakes prepared on Khmer New Year: Num Ansom Chrouk (sticky rice filled with bacon), Num Ansom Chek (sticky rice with banana), Num Korm (sticky rice with sugar and coconut meat), Num Bot (sticky rice with cooked salty beans).
Sothy says the cakes can only be kept for two days. The coconut milk and other ingredients make the cake prone to spoilage. But the same ingredients are also the very reason why Cambodian rice cakes have unique taste.
“Cambodian cakes cannot last very long as other cakes in the coffee shop. But these cakes play important roles in all ceremonies as well as festivals in Cambodia. We all do these cakes from our heart. I believe people will support, eat and try to find the real essence of these traditional cakes.” says Sothy.
It’s part of our tradition, a part of who we are as Cambodians. It’s important that we never forget our culture despite all the social changes. This may just seem like a normal rice cake, but it signifies our culture as well, she adds.