A festival of Cambodian home cookin’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

A festival of Cambodian home cookin’

Cambodia’s biggest food festival is back for two days of regional mahope (food) from all corners of the Kingdom.

Organisers said this year’s Cambodian Cuisine Festival, which was started by French NGO Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE) in 2013, aims to highlight “mother’s” cooking from 20 provinces.

“When you’re hungry, you always need your mother’s food – your mother is the one who makes the best food ever,” said PSE programs manager Ouk Sovan.

Dishes range from Stung Treng-style raw fish salad to stuffed frogs from Takeo. Even the Kula, a Tai minority related to the Shan whose ancestors emigrated to Pailin from Myanmar in the 19th century, will have their noodles presented.

Event organiser Sorphorn Souk said Cambodian tastes are so provincial that even dishes from neighbouring Kandal are absent from the capital’s markets and street stalls.

“It’s a very good opportunity to join this event, especially for young people, to discover what is the Khmer food in our country,” she said, adding that she didn’t recognise most of the dishes when she attended the event last year.

Sovan, whose mother will be representing Kampot at the festival, said palm and seafood defined his homeland.

“We have Kampot noodles, crab fried rice, and the sea vegetable salad, and palm curry ... especially the palm curry,” he said.

“These are the four lovely foods of Kampot, and thinking about them is making me hungry,” he joked.

While guests will recognise many dishes from last year, the selection has increased from 44 to 70 options. Newcomers include shrimp prahok from Kampot, pickled salad from Svey Rieng and dried fish salad from Takeo. Dishes, which will range from $1-2, will be served tapas-style to allow customers to experience a wider variety of regional touches.

The entry fee from the event will go toward PSE. While past festivals’ proceeds have always supported the NGO, Sovan said they will use the funds to provide meals to underprivileged school children.

“A lot of kids living in the slums have problems with malnutrition, so this year we want to deliver 100,000 meals to kids in our program,” adding that a cuisine festival was a natural fundraiser to combat hunger.​

The Cambodian Cuisine Festival will be held at the Olympic Stadium at 5pm, April 3-4. Tickets are $3 and can be purchased in advance by calling 017 77 61 44 or 086 84 44 11.

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