Num Kom-Sticky Rice Cakes with coconut filling/Khmer Kozhukkattai!

Modhakam (http://modhakam-pillayar-chaturthi-special), Kara Kozhukkattai (http://pidi-kozhukkattai-karamsalted-rice-dumplings) and Inippu Kozhukkattai (http://inippuvella-k-kozhukkattaijaggery-rice-dumplings) for Pillayar Chaturthi have been made in the recent posts. So why not make this Pillayar Chaturthi a fusion festival – with a Tamil-Khmer festive sweet… that which also somewhat resembles our Poorana Kozhukkattai (Dumplings with filling) in preparation and filling!
Here is Num Kom – The Cambodian Sticky Rice Cake!

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Cambodia with the staple food rice has many varieties of food made with Rice, especially the Glutinous Rice or the Sticky Rice.

Glutinous rice (Oryza sativa var. glutinosa; also called sticky rice, sweet rice or waxy rice) is a type of rice grown mainly in Southeast and East Asia, which has opaque grains, very low amylose content, and is especially sticky when cooked. It is called glutinous (< Latin glūtinōsus)[1] in the sense of being glue-like or sticky, and not in the sense of containing gluten. While often called “sticky rice”, it differs from non-glutinous strains of japonica rice which also become sticky to some degree when cooked. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sticky_rice

 

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Some of the main delicacies made for special occasions with the Sticky Rice are the different kinds of Rice Cakes. Special occasions can be Weddings, Khmer New Year or Pchum Ben (Festival devoted to worship of ancestors).

The Rice Cake varieties can be Num Kom,  Num Ansom Chrouk and Nom Ansom Chek. Num means Cake in general. Nom Kom is the Rice Cake with coconut and palm sugar filling. Ansom Chrouk has a filling mainly of pork fat and green bean and can be a main course.  Ansom Chek has a filling of banana and it is served as a dessert.

During Pchum Ben – where the ancestors of every family are worshipped – women of the household, young and old sit together and prepare Num Kom.  The Rice Cakes require a lot of time wrapping them in banana leaf – folded in a particular pattern.  While Num Kom – the coconut filled rice cake needs less time comparitively,  there are other fillings to the rice cake – like pork meat – cooking time of which is longer. So, they say the womenfolk sit chatting in the night making hundreds of rice cakes, while the different kinds of cakes get cooked for the next day ceremony.

Thanks to http://blog.aseankorea.org/archives/16079 – from which I could collect some interesting information about these Rice Cakes.

Special thanks to my friend and one of the pioneer bloggers of Cambodia at a very young age – Keonila of blueladyblog.com for helping me out in the search of more authentic information. Also patiently answering my doubts on the fillings of Nom Kom. She is one of the top 5 bloggers of Cambodia and a social media advocate. Thankyou Nila!

And all those other friends who may be reading this – do correct me when I am wrong on information – and please do not hesitate to share your thoughts. This would help me get a better insight into the traditions and culture behind the cuisine of Cambodia!

This Rice Cake could not have been prepared without the guidance and helping hands  of friend ‘D’, who played teacher in letting me learn this cake – with the taste and twist (literally) of banana leaves. Thank you ‘D’.
Num Kom

 

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Num Kom is a Rice Cake made with the outer shell of Sticky Rice with a filling of coconut and palm sugar, wrapped in banana leaf and steamed.

Originally palm sugar is used as sweetener. Since I did not have it, I substituted with the home made jaggery syrup which was available. Incidentally, when I made modhakam/poorana kozhukkattai on pillayar chathurthi, there was no jaggery at home as well in the Indian shop I get it from. I could only palm sugar instead. It was meant to be this way I suppose – Indian Kozhukkattai (Rice Dumplings) substituted with palm sugar and Khmer Kozhukkattai (Rice Cakes) with jaggery.

 


Ingredients (makes 7-8 num koms)

 

for the filling
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  • glutinous rice/sticky rice – 175 grams (1 cup – a little more or less)
  • grated coconut – 1 cup
  • sesame seeds – 3 tsp
  • jaggery syrup – little less than 1/2 cup
  • salt – a pinch
  • banana leaves to wrap

Method of Preparation

 

I. Preparation of Outer Shell/Rice Covering

 

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We decided to go for the traditional method of soaking rice and making a paste. The paste is strained in a netted cloth and the water content remaining in the paste would go. Then, hot water is added to somewhat dry dough to make it easy to wrap the filling inside.

 

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This was a flop with the cloth I had was thick and could not strain the water away.. Emergency!!!  Got some glutinous rice powder and mixed it with the rice paste and converted it into the required right consistency to make Num Kom

Keep aside.

 

II. Preparation of filling
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  1. In a wide pan, dry roast sesame seeds till slightly brown. Preferably black sesame – but I had white.
  2. Switch off the stove and add grated coconut and jaggery syrup
  3. If one uses palm sugar, it mixes well very fast and easily
  4. Frying more or making the filling thick and sticky as in south indian dumplings is not needed here
  5. Mix well and keep aside.

 


III. Preparation of Rice Cake

 

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  1. Make small balls of rice dough
  2. Flatten each to keep the filling inside
  3. Fill with coconut-sesame-jaggery filling
  4. Close and make a ball

IV. Folding the Rice Cake in Banana Leaf

1. Cut the banana leaves in 8 by 7 inches  (khmer food cooking tutorial: num kom’s (steam rice cake with coconut)

2. Wash the leaves well and wipe them clean with cloth

3. Fold each leaf vertically and give it a slightly cross cut

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4. The cut leaves look like this

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5. Fold it vertically – one fold

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6. Next fold – make it a ‘V’

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7. There would be two pockets – open the wider pocket

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8. Grease the leaf and place the Rice Cake inside

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9. Do not close it the same side where the leaf looks ‘V’ – but, fold the leaf to close the cake in the middle portion where there is a double slit – now, this is a tricky part I forgot to capture. I was learning to close it and was quite successful too. But no photos please. Shall try again for sure!

10. Done and the cakes are ready to be steamed.

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V. Steaming Num Kom

place the rice cakes randomly in the vessel
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  1. Boil water in a steamer
  2. In the container, place banana leaves as base. This prevents the num koms from sticking to the bottom of the vessel and also gives more banana leaf fragrance and flavour to the steamed cakes
  3. Arrange the prepared rice cakes. Be careful not to damage the shape
  4. Place more banana leaves on top and close the steamer with lid
  5. Steam for about 15 minutes
  6. Num Kom is ready

 

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Sounds so similar, feels so familiar – yet so different! This holds good to the cuisine connections of Cambodia and South India! Shall explore more…

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Love the tutorial and the photos, and how you could easily adapt the recipe when it wasn’t working according to plan.

    We also wrap lots of things in banana-type leaves. I love the look and the ingredients – I think I would really enjoy this rice cake

    1. dosaikal says:

      Yes, it was an interesting task. The Cambodian sticky rice is really very sticky and the powder or ground rice gets a nice chewy texture when steamed. The aroma is also distinct.

    1. dosaikal says:

      Your article gives a beautiful picture of the life in Phnom Penh. Thanks for the link.

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