Happy Khmer New Year!
Yes, the third and final New Year that Cambodia celebrates in this calendar year is upon us. But there’s more to Khmer New Year than cranking your karaoke machine to “eleven” and the recent adoption of the Thai Songkran practice of attempting to knock foreigners off their motorcycles with a well-aimed waterbomb.
For starters, there’s Khmer New Year games. I especially like:
5. “Leak Kanseng”
A game played by a group of children sitting in circle. Someone holding a “kanseng” (Cambodian towel) twisted into a round shape walks around the circle while singing a song. The person walking secretly tries to place the “kanseng” behind one of the children. If that chosen child realizes what is happening, he or she must pick up the “kanseng” and beat the person sitting next to him or her.
I’m assuming that you ineffectually beat them with the towel. Secondly, the Ministry of Tourism’s page on Khmer New Year is improbably informative this year. It even includes a typical Khmer traditional story; typical insofar as the protagonist has to deal with the imminent threat of being beheaded by a religious leader and then his corpse feasted upon by a pair of talking eagles.
Speaking of which, on the food front, New Year is another chance to fatten up your local monks and appease the spirits of the dead at your local wat with some num anksom. The only trustworthy Khmer recipe resource on the web, Khmer Krom Recipes, serves up Num anksom sach chrouk (rice cakes wrapped in banana leaf with pork):
Like many Khmer Krom families, each year, a few days before the New Year, my family will dedicate a day just for making rice cakes. Some of my relatives, neighbors and friends will get together usually at our house, some brings sweet rice, some bring mung beans, some bring meat for the cooking event. We’ll makes and shares hundreds of num anksom chrouk , num anksom chet, num kom. Most the cakes will be giving away to neighbors, friends and the poor. Weâ€™ll take some sweet rice cakes to Wats for food offerings to our ancestors.
Sadly, my neighbours haven’t been so industrious this year, but they generously gave me a big plate of steamed corn which they told me that they “cooked with no chemicals”, so no more grey onion sauce for me.