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Cambodian sweet treat showcase

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A stallholder at the weekend’s Cambodian Cake and Dessert Exhibition presides over a platter of sticky rice puddings wrapped in banana leaves. Photograph: Chhim Sreyneang/Phnom Penh Post

Rice cakes packed in banana leaves, fruit jams, sweet syrup desserts and fried cakes were just some of the traditional delicacies presented at the Cambodian Cake and Dessert Exhibition over the weekend.

At least 100 varieties of cakes and desserts were displayed at the riverside park in front of Wat Ounalom, drawing in hundreds of locals and tourists eager to sample the local delicacies.

The three day event, which concluded on Saturday, was organised by Phnom Penh City Hall and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts in order to promote the Clean City Movement and to congratulate the country for its role as host of 2012 ASEAN summit.

Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema, who presided over the event, said that the exhibition would also help to promote Cambodian culture, tradition and identity to locals and foreigners alike.

“These cakes and desserts have a long history,” he said. “They have been prepared and consumed by our ancestors. Showing the variety of Cambodian sweets to the younger generation will make them more connected with their identity, and it can also promote the Kingdom of Wonder to tourists as well.”

Thai Noreak Sathya, secretary of state in the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said last weekend marked the third occasion Phnom Penh had hosted a culinary event on this scale.

“In the past, there were many food exhibitions with an unclear identity, such as a Cambodian-Thai food exhibition. It can confuse visitors, and Cambodia’s young generation can have a hard time differentiating which are their own national foods.”

The staff from ministry conducted research on local cakes and desserts in preparation for the event. According to Mak Vansitha, a Culture and Fine Arts Ministry spokeswoman, Cambodia has 163 kinds of cakes and desserts in total. All provinces and cities in Cambodia have at least a few cakes and desserts which are unique staples in their locale.

The booths were provided free of charge, but exhibitors were required to wear white uniforms, as well as use paper bags instead of plastic ones as a part of environment protection awareness program.

Sam Panha, a university freshman who was at the second day of the event, said that he enjoyed tasting the delicacies and learned a lot about Cambodian food.

“I never knew that we had so many kinds of cakes and desserts,” he said. “Some of the names sound so unfamiliar because I had never heard of them before.”

Kang Sang Wook, a Korean tourist, said that he enjoyed the event despite the weekend’s hot weather.

“I became sweaty after going from booth to booth to take pictures and eating desserts with my friends, but I’m happy. We like the taste of Cambodian desserts!”

To contact the reporters on this story: Sou Vuthy and Chhim Sreyneang at ppp.lifestyle@gmail.com

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