November 17, 2010
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October 8, 2010
Pchum Ben Festival
This morning we got up at 3am to go out to a pagoda in a rural area about an hour outside Siem Reap to feed our ancestors. Yes, you read that right.
Today is one of the most important days during the Pchum Ben holiday in which people gather at their pagoda to honor their ancestors with food and worship. This is very similar to All Soul’s Day and The Day of the Dead in other cultures. My mother, Lori, and I were taken by one of the foundation’s regular van drivers, Den, to his home where the family had been hard at work making packets of food wrapped in banana leaf bundles to bring to the pagoda and they had very nicely made extra for us.
After stopping at the house to pick up the food and the rest of the family, we drove about a half mile to the village’s pagoda and temple. Once there, we went inside the pagoda which was filled mostly with Buddhist nuns all dressed in white, many of whom had walked for miles to get there. They all came prepared for the duration of the holiday, bringing bedding and some food with them.
We were the only foreigners there, but everyone was extremely welcoming and it didn’t feel awkward at all. Member’s of Den’s familytook us around to give offerings of 500 riel notes (about 12 cents) to the nuns (most of whom are older widows) and monks who were there, who each gave us a blessing. This money is supposed to help them defray the cost of their long journey and is also a way to pay respect to the dead through them. There were other people doing this with money and gifts of food as well.
Soon there was movement in the crowd. Den’s brother, Denny, took …
October 26, 2010
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Oct 6th, 2010
This morning we’re headed back to Knar School for a return visit. This school has unique medical issues and we’re going out with a small group of volunteers to check on some of the children and visit two very special boys at home.
Num Bahn Choc
First, we make a stop at edge of a small town on the way to Knar where there is a row of identical restaurants, all serving the same dish, Num Bahn Choc (aka Cambodian Morning Soup). This is a noodle dish which is as local as it gets; every area has its own version and the ingredients change with the season. Lori has her favorite stall, one in which she’s confident of the quality and cleanliness of the ingredients. Num Bahn Choc is a soupy rice noodle dish served with a curry, fermented fish paste (there’s no additional meat added) and some fish broth. The big draw are the herbs, vegetables and assorted leaves and greens which are collected fresh from the forest each morning.
The dish comes to the tables as a simple bowl of rice noodles with the fish broth. It’s up to you to add your favorite garnishes from the big bouquet on the table and the assorted condiments (chili sauce, pickled garlic, dried chili powder, etc). I added yellow flowers which looked like sweet pea blossoms, an herb which looked a little like cilantro or parsley, some long beans and some chili sauce (see my bowl in the top photo). I also tasted those red leaves, but they didn’t seem to have a ton of flavor to me. The cost was $1 per person including a glass of sweet milk iced coffee.
It’s hard to explain exactly where this place is located, but while trying to figure it out, I came across a link to one of my