Category Archives: The Cambodia Diary

Indonesia – the lost link – part 3

A visit to Borobudur is incomplete without visiting Candi Mendut and Chandi Pawon. The three are grouped as the Borobudur Temple Compounds. And that’s what we did. 

The Borobudur Temple Compounds consist of three monuments: namely the Borobudur Temple and  two smaller temples situatued to the east on a straight axis to Borobudur. The two temples are Mendut Temple, whose depiction of Buddha is represented by a formidable monolith accompanied by two Bodhisattvas, and Pawon Temple, a smaller temple whose inner space does not reveal which deity might have been the object of worship. Those three monuments represent phases in the attainment of Nirvana.
https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/592

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Candi Mendut

Chronologically, mendut is the oldest of the three. The stairs leading to the main temple is quite steep. Inside the temple are seated three huge deities. One is Buddha Sakyauni in ‘Dharmachakra Mudra’. On either side of him are Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani.

Buddha Sakyamuni

Avalokiteshvara

Vajrapani

On the outer walls along the steep stair, we find carvings of Jataka tales.

The clever monkey and the crocodile
The Turtle and the Swans

A few more from the temple –

Even to this day, Mendut is used as a religious temple. When Buddhist pilgrims visit Borobudur, they always visit Mendut first. They then walk to the nearby temple Pawon and end their pilgrimage with a climb to the top of Borobudur. While Mendut is not as famous as its bigger cousin, Borobudur, it still stands strong as one of the greatest Buddhist temples on ancient Java. https://www.worldsiteguides.com/asia/indonesia/mendut/ Candi Pawan

Candi Pawon

Between Mendut and Borobudur stands Pawon temple, a jewel of Javanese temple architecture. Most probably, this temple served to purify the mind prior to ascending Borobudur.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pawon

Kalpataru – the celestial wish granting tree

shop that sells traditional folk crafts outside the temple

My admiration for these architectural wonders is rekindled after this post… Every temple that I visited, every sculpture that I watched awe struck… is well preserved not only in my gadget, but in my memory too. I know these medieval temples would call me back..


Indonesia- the lost link – 2

Let’s start our journey to the mesmerising medieval temples- Buddhist and Hindu temples of Indonesia. This isn’t a research paper. Hence, as mentioned in the previous post, we would do a pictorial tour with an introduction to the historic site.

I am delighted to share these pictures and hope you will be encouraged to visit these amazing architectural wonders. Or if you have already visited, please share your thoughts.

First in the list of the temples of Yogyakarta is Borobudur ..

The Borobudur Temple Compounds is one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world, and was built in the 8th and 9th centuries AD during the reign of the Syailendra Dynasty. The monument is located in the Kedu Valley, in the southern part of Central Java, at the centre of the island of Java, Indonesia.

The main temple is a stupa built in three tiers around a hill which was a natural centre: a pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces, the trunk of a cone with three circular platforms and, at the top, a monumental stupa. The walls and balustrades are decorated with fine low reliefs, covering a total surface area of 2,520 m2. Around the circular platforms are 72 openwork stupas, each containing a statue of the Buddha.

https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/592

After the introduction, its time for the pictures-

The Panels-

 

Intricate carvings-



Animals in stone- Jataka Tales…

The Stories –

The Life –

The Buddha –

Indonesia – the lost link

Couple of weeks ago, I had a surprise waiting for me. A surprise from as far as Indonesia. Almost 4 years ago, we left Cambodia and 5 years ago, we made our memorable trip to Bali, Yogyakarta and Jakarta – the mesmerising cities of Indonesia. This surprise was a delicious package, sent by my Indonesian friend ‘I’.

As a person who respects traditional cuisine and culture, I am amazed by the ‘cuisinical’ links that my state Tamilnadu shares with south-east Asia – especially with the countries I have visited till date- Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

‘I’ addressed me as ‘sister’ – I am reminded of the Tamil verse written in Purananooru – one of the many collections of poetries in the Sangam age (3rd BCE to 3rd ACE), , by the Tamil Poet ‘kaniyan poongundranar’:

“yaadhum oore yaavarum kelir” –

யாதும் ஊரே யாவரும் கேளிர்
தீதும் நன்றும் பிறர்தர வாரா
நோதலும் தணிதலும் அவற்றோ ரன்ன
சாதலும் புதுவது அன்றே, வாழ்தல்
இனிதென மகிழ்ந்தன்றும் இலமே முனிவின்
இன்னா தென்றலும் இலமே, மின்னொடு
வானம் தண்துளி தலைஇ யானாது
கல் பொருது மிரங்கு மல்லல் பேரியாற்று
நீர்வழிப் படூஉம் புணைபோல் ஆருயிர்
முறை வழிப் படூஉம் என்பது திறவோர்
காட்சியில் தெளிந்தனம் ஆகலின், மாட்சியின்
பெரியோரை வியத்தலும் இலமே,
சிறியோரை இகழ்தல் அதனினும் இலமே. (புறம்: 192)

To us all towns are our own, everyone our kin,
Life’s good comes not from others’ gifts, nor ill,
Pains and pain’s relief are from within,
Death’s no new thing, nor do our bosoms thrill
When joyous life seems like a luscious draught.
When grieved, we patient suffer; for, we deem
This much-praised life of ours a fragile raft
Borne down the waters of some mountain stream
That o’er huge boulders roaring seeks the plain
Tho’ storms with lightning’s flash from darkened skies.
Descend, the raft goes on as fates ordain.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise!
We marvel not at the greatness of the great;
Still less despise we men of low estate.

Kaniyan Poongundran, Purananuru – 192
(Adapted from translation by G.U.Pope, 1906)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaniyan_Pungundranar


yaadhum oore yaavarum kelir – the first line of the poem means – ‘To us all towns are our own, everyone our kin’ – the thought of world is one, written two millennia ago is a startling evidence of the well established Tamil civilization.

This thought of oneness is what I felt, when I visited the medieval temples of south-east asia. The cultural and historical impact that the temples have left behind in my mind is huge. The historical sites are not mere tourist attractions to me – but they are evidences of a long lost civilizational connect – often researched by scholars.

The former Indian President, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam while rendering his speech on the occasion of the golden jubilee year of the European Union in April 2007 spoke about Kaniyan Poongundranar and his ‘world is one’ concept-

“i am reminded of the dream of the indian poet kaniyan poongundranar who articulated 3,000 years back in tamil classic Purananuru , he says “yaadhum oore yaavarum kelir” which means, “i am a world citizen, every citizen is my own kith and kin” he said 3,000 years back”

When ‘I’, my Indonesian friend sent me a few traditional sweets of the country, I was delighted. First, there was the joy of receiving a surprise, next the joy of receiving one of my favorite delicacies, next was the incomparable elation of revisiting the past – the recent touristic and the distant historic past.

This is the exotic package I received –


on top: Dadar Gulung; below left: Onde Onde; below right: Kelepon

Dadar Gulung is sweet coconut pancake; Onde Onde are deep fried glutinous rice balls filled with mung beans and sugar and wrapped in sesame seeds, and Kelepons are green coloured steamed rice balls filled with liquid palm sugar and coated in grated coconut.

All of these and more that we tasted during our Indonesian trip back in 2014 – from my photo collection-

dadar gulung and kelepon
kolak – sweet potatoes, banana, rice balls, jackfruit in coconut milk and palm sugar

Now, one would understand my delight after I received onde onde, dadar gulung and kelepon from ‘I’. The taste that I had cherished for so long, arrived so beautifully and rekindled my fondness for south-east Asian countries.

Our spread in the hotel dinner also had these –

Sayur Lodeh – vegetable soup in coconut milk, which resembled our own sodhi
ayam bakar – grilled chicken
ikan asin – salted fish

Shrinking the world into one nation and considering all citizens as kith and kin is certainly an unbelievable noble thought. The same way – respecting different beliefs, embracing different cultures, accepting and reciprocating the warmth of humanity is what strikes us the most in the medieval Indonesian historical places that we visited.

History provides clues to various aspects of identity of a race. Language, Religion, Trade, Culture, Cuisine and many more contribute to this great search called ‘Identity’. Indonesia teaches strong lessons to countries that fail to understand and preserve their rich history and heritage.

A country that has transformed into an Islamic Nation, Indonesia sets an example in conserving its rich past, wherein medieval temples might occupy the largest fraction in its historical study. The temples, especially in Yogyakarta or Jogja stand as great representations of the country’s antiquity and glorious past.

The excellent way, these have been preserved shows the country’s respect for its past, irrespective of the present faith. This open minded acceptance of history is what makes Indonesia, a country par tolerance.

In my next post, I invite the readers to a pictoral tour of the beautiful medieval temple sites that we visited in the province of Yogyakarta.

candi sewu


Khmer Memories – Num Plae Ai/Sticky Rice Sweet Balls

 

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After recently reading my friend Oz’s post in her blog – ‘kitchen butterfly.com’ on shifting base from one place to another, I co-related with the pains of leaving friends behind and the agonies related to packing.

This is what I wrote to her- (Sorry Oz, I borrow my own words here)

 

I know the pains of packing. But I have felt an explorer’s enthusiasm while shifting to a new place but ‘getting your children married’ kind of a tension while leaving the old.

Yet the blankness in mind and heart, having left your near and dear ones until you reach the new destination is quite stressful. Happy Settling!!

 

But never thought mine was so very close.

So, here I am.. in another packing – having packed – unsettled phase… the only difference from recent previous packings is that we are back home. Home, not meaning home state where I belong, but nearly 2200 kms from home but yet in home country.

One suddenly seems to be squeezed between the never ending packing (which I used to like, not anymore), and telling bye to dear friends, formal associates and those special souls who became close to the heart pals. It is a very difficult phase, where everything seems unsettled till your own things reach back to the new place of livelihood. It is again a tedious process of unpacking, but at least you know you are settling yourself in the new place, in Oz’s words – ‘Unpacking a House to Home’… I like the phrase and want it soon.

While leaving behind people and memories is a pain, the effect is obviously more on the children. We don’t realize what they have left behind in their eyes. The pressure of completing the incomplete school year, leaving friends and teachers and their playmates, landing in a new place, finding new friends, getting accustomed to new environment and getting placed well in a new school, the biggest of all might be being accepted in the new whatever groups they might be sent to…. the list might grow longer.

So, to simplify, just say ‘IT IS DIFFICULT’.

Now, I do not intend going into what I left behind in Cambodia, the country which had become very much connected to heart and soul, due to the ancient connections with Tamilnadu. But as a foodie, I truly miss the flavors of Khmer Cuisine, which was in an amateur path of exploration.

So, I decided to rekindle those memorable moments of learning Khmer sweets, soups and curries. A true big thanks to my friends ‘D’ and ‘S’, who were wonderful teachers in showing the art of Khmer Cooking… patiently…  step by step.

Num Plae Ai

 

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‘Num Plae Ai’ is a very simple yet delicious sweet treat. Again rice based and Palm Sugar, the ingredients are limited, method simple but the end result too good. The sticky rice outer covering is a bit chewy, and the dissolved palm sugar candy inside makes its own path inside leaving a sweet flavor.

After reading a few other blogs, I understand this is also colloquially called ‘kill husband cake’ as it was made by a betrayed wife to revenge her husband. The chewy and slippery outer covering is believed to have stuck in his throat.

But, beyond betrayals and revenges, Num Plae Ai is truly a sugar lover’s delight.

I made this sweet with 500 gms sticky rice flour and I think I got nearly 50 sweet balls. Just decide how much you’d need.  By this ratio,  1 cup measuring 200 gms might yield 15-20 approximately. Regrets on any flaws in mathematics.

Ingredients

 

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  • sticky rice flour – 1 cup or 200 gms
  • palm jaggery – 100 -150 gms
  • salt – a pinch
  • grated coconut
  • boiled water – to cook the sweet Plae Ai
  • cold water – to cool the cooked rice balls
  • banana leaf for serving

 

Method of Preparation

1. Mix rice flour with a pinch of salt and water (normal temperature).

 

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2. Cut the Palm Jaggery into small pieces to fill one piece into each ball.

 

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3. Grate coconut and keep aside. Can be kept in fridge and taken out in the end as grated coconut is needed only in the end of making the sweet and might stay fresh refrigerated.

4. Make small shells out of rice dough and –

 

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5. Fill each ball with one piece of cut jaggery and close.

 

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6. Make the same with all the rice flour.

 

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7. Boil water in medium flame, in a big bowl or any big hard bottomed vessel with a pinch of salt.

8. Simmer and gently drop the palm jaggery filled rice balls into it; Keep flame in minimum position.

 

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9. The sweet balls which are at the bottom of the vessel when dropped, rise up to the water level after cooked. This cooking process might take 5 to 10 minutes.

 

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10. Take a bowl of room temperature water or cold water and drop the cooked sweet balls inside.

 

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11. Cook them in batches.

12. After a minute, remove them and place in a plate.

 

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13. Take the grated coconut and spread in a plate and roll each sweet in grated coconut to make a covering.

14. Serve hot or cold.

This is generally served in a banana leaf cone with a tooth pick in the markets in Phnom Penh.

 

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Tip:

  1. The sticky rice balls can be stored in refrigerator for a couple of days or even more.
  2. If one prefers to freeze, do not add coconut topping. Thaw frozen Plae Ai when needed, steam to make them fresh and roll in grated coconut to serve.

Khmer Festive Sweet – Num Ansom Chek – Banana Filled Steamed Rice Cakes

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Cambodia has a long list of traditional festivals. The major festivals seem to be influenced by both Hinduism and Buddhism. Apart from the influence of religions, Cambodians still preserve many cultural celebrations like the Royal Ploughing Ceremony in May and Water Festival in November.
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Pchum Ben
Pchum Ben is celebrated from late September to early October for 15 days. It is a festival in honour of ancestors. It is also called the Festival of Souls and the All Soul Day. I couldn’t witness the festival this year. But I had already tried making the special Rice Cake called ‘NUM ANSOM CHEK’ with the help of friend ‘D’ for posting during the period. So, better late than never or wait till next Pchum Ben next year, thought I should share it now.

 

Offering of food is a meritorious act and is one of the oldest and most common rituals of Buddhism. During the Pchum Ben festival, people bring food to the temple for the monks and to feed hungry ghosts who could be their late ancestors, relatives or friends. Pagodas are usually crowded with people taking their turn to make offerings and to beg the monks to pray for their late ancestors and loved ones. Many remain behind at the temple to listen to Buddhist sermons. http://www.tourismcambodia.org/contents/festival/index.php?view=detail&id=35#comp

 

 food offered in pagoda

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photo courtesy ‘D’.
The people here, wake up very early and get ready to go to Pagodas or Buddhist Temples. They wear their traditional clothes and walk around the Pagoda chanting Buddhist hymns. One of the most important ritual of Pchum Ben is taking food for their loved relatives who are no more part of this world. It is believed that the dead parents and relatives come on this day to see their dear ones and also accept the food offered by them. So, in order to not disappoint any of their lost relatives and ancestors, the Khmers prepare various delicacies and give it in the Pagodas.

 

IMG_8693photo courtesy ‘D’
The Monks in the Pagodas are worshipped and given food on this special occasion. There is also another reason for this ‘food from every home’ to the Pagodas –

 

According to venerable Um Sum, long ago Buddhist monks had to walk everywhere to ask for alms no matter how bad the weather was. Later during his reign, King Jayavarman, a strong advocate of Buddhism supported and provided Buddhist monks with the four requisite: clothing, food, shelter and medicine. The king realized that when the monks walked to ask for alms during the rainy season, they encountered heavy rain, thunderstorms, lightning and violent winds. The monks could not walk and fell down on the muddy paths. The king felt great sympathy for them and asked them not to go for alms for three months every rainy season. And he appealed to all his compatriots to offer food, and other basic needs to the monks for this period. Also, Buddhist followers explained that there was much merit in offering alms to the monks. As a result, more and more people offered the four requisites to the monks. http://www.bodhikaram.com/Pchum%20Ben.html

 

With so much food offered every day during the festivity, there is also chance of food getting wasted. Hence came the idea of making Rice Cakes which could be kept for days together without being spoilt. People make Steamed Rice Cakes filled with Bananas, Jack fruit or Pork. They are wrapped in Banana Leaves and steamed well. The speciality not only lies in the filling, but in the intricately crafted shape of the banana leaf cover.

 

Bananas of Cambodia

 

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Chek, is the Khmer word for Banana. There are many varieties of Banana in Cambodia. Being a tropical region, Banana enjoys the status of ‘King of Fruits’. Fruits are available in abundance, but the usage of bananas is extensive. Like the southern part of India, here too Bananas enjoy the status of a ritual fruit as well as ritual tree – We can see houses with banana trees tied in front on special occasions. The main varieties are Chek Namva, Chek Pong Morn, Chek Amboung, Chek Snab Muk. http://www.cambodia-picturetour.com/tag/banana-in-cambodia/

There needs to be a special post on bananas of cambodia and their value in rituals and traditions. But now we shall proceed with Num Ansom Chek – the delicacy.

The Banana Variety used in this sweet is Chek Namva.

 

Beside eaten fresh, Check Namva also be used in creating many Khmer simple delicious snack, cake, sweet such as Chek Khtis (banana coconut milk dessert), Chek Chheung (Banana cooked with sugar paste), Chek Chean (Fried banana), Chek Ang (Grilled banana), Chek Chhab (Sliced banana deep fried), Num Chek Bok (pounded banana cake), Num Ansom Chek (banana sticky rice cake). http://www.cambodia-picturetour.com/tag/banana-in-cambodia/

 

The Recipe – Num Ansom Chek – Steamed Sticky Rice Cakes with Banana Filling
Note: I regret for any faults in making or explaining the recipe. I have just tried to do my best. Please feel free to write about any changes and/or corrections.

 

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Ingredients (makes approximately 20 to 25 num ansom cheks)

  • sticky rice – 3 cups
  • well ripe bananas – appr. 6
  • grated coconut – 1 cup
  • salt – 1/4 tsp

for covering and steaming

  • banana leaves
  • strings from banana fibre
  • steamer

About Cambodian Sticky Rice pelase refer – num-kom-sticky-rice-cakes-with-coconut-fillingkhmer-kozhukkattai/
Method of Preparation
1. Soak sticky rice over night; In the morning, filter water away and keep rice in a siever to drain extra water. The soaked rice need not be fully dry
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2. Mix grated coconut with rice

 

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3. Cut bananas vertically; Mix salt to cut banana

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4. Each rice cake would need 1 square and another half its size – a rectangle banana leaf; keep the banana fiber string ready to tie the cake. Cut squares and rectangles in approximate numbers

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5. Place the small leaf (rectangle) over the bigger one(square)
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6. Place a small portion of rice and spread vertically

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7. Make space in the middle and place banana piece

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8. Cover with rice
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Folding the Rice Cake in Banana Leaf
This is an extensive process. I have tried my best to do justice. I think it is time to post a video for this purpose. But, I go with my photos.
1. After the leaf is filled with rice and banana, fold the leaf
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2. Cover with a fold in the middle
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3. Bend the leaf and close one side and press the rice and banana tighter inside but without collapsing the shape

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4. Make the next and final fold with a dent in between  – this I think is the toughest bit. This is very important for the perfect shape of num ansom chek

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better…
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5. After the cake has been folded by this exquisite technique, now it is time to tie it well;

First, tie on top, around the cake – leaving the string long after tightening the string.
1st knot-

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2nd knot – keep the same order of place going..
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3rd knot –
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4th knot –
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6. Tie all the strings together and the end string would look like this..

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7. Now, this is time for some imagination in making your desired plaits, to complete the string
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or…
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8. And great job!! the cakes are ready to be steamed!

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9. Fill the steamer with enough water and place the steaming bowl. The steaming bowl should be covered with banana leaves. Place the prepared cakes and close with more banana leaves. Then close the lid of the steamer. Steam for nearly 20 mins.
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10. The num ansoms are tied together and also hung on roof edges. It seems, during the Pchum Ben days while the family members, friends and relatives are chatting day and night, when one feels hungry he/she can pull out a cake and enjoy.
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Note:

  1. This Cake doesn’t need any kind of sugar as banana is a sweetener here. Still, palm sugar can be used as preferred.
  2. Num Ansom Chek is also made by mixing soaked red bean to rice.
  3. We have made smaller cakes. Larger ones are made with whole banana placed inside. The amount of rice kept would be increased accordingly.
  4. Salt in the banana adds to the perfect balance of the cake.
  5. No doubt a healthy, low fat dessert which is worth the effort certainly!

 

A very big THANKS to my friend ‘D’ who guided me and helped me learn the nuances of this special Khmer Dessert/Delicacy.

Awkoon Chran! – Thank you very much in Khmer.

 

Festival of India in Cambodia – Dance Festival and Buddhist Festival

 

Rama Pattabhishekam – Rama Attaining Throne

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The Embassy of India and the Ministry of Culture, Government of India recently hosted The Festival of India in Cambodia. There were two events held in February. One the Buddhist Festival with a Buddhist themed photo exhibition and the other, Ramayana Classical Dance Performance by the world acclaimed and well esteemed Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai.

The epic Ramayana was performed by Artists from the famous Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai, Tamilnadu, in Siem Reap province for two days at Sophitel Pokheetra Hall (14.02.14 and 15.02.14) and in Phnom Penh at Chaktamouk Theatre for three days (17.02, 18.02 and 19.02.14).

 

captivating performances..

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About KALAKSHETRA…

Kalakshetra was established in 1936 after the extraordinary success of Rukmini Devi’s first performance of Bharata Natyam at the Theosophical Society, in Adyar, a suburb of Madras, in the South of India. The founding members, Rukmini Devi, her husband George Arundale, and their associates at the Theosophical Society, were deeply committed to Theosophy and an arts academy was an extension of this commitment. The academy was also symbolic of the struggle for India’s independence; it was to culturally revive a country that was losing its identity under British rule. http://www.kalakshetra.net/history_1.html

 

Rukmini Devi founded Kalakshetra in 1936. She devoted the next fifty uears – until her death in 1986 – to this institution, now India’s premier dance school. It focuses on bharatanatyam, carnatic vocal and instrumental music, the visual arts, traditional crafts, textile design and heritage, besides history and philosophy.

 

Director of Kalakshetra Priyadarsini Govind

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The Dancers, Vocalists, Instrumentalists and the very important Behind the Screen Technical Artists arrived as a crew with the Director of Kalakshetra,  Priyadarsini Govind a renowned dancer herself. She is immensely respected for her gentle blending of traditional dance with new choreography. Her inseparable talent has loaded her with numerous awards and honours, among which are the Prestigious ‘Kalaimamani’ title by the Government of Tamilnadu in 1998 and ‘Yuva Kala Bharathi’ in 2000.
Ramayana on Stage

The classic dance drama, not only showcased the rich cultural and artistic heritage of India but also served as a connecting link between many of the Asian countries. Ramayana is popular in various parts of south east asia, where the epic is adapted according to the country’s culture and life style. Even within India, Ramayana in each language, adapted from the original Valmiki Ramayana, has unique features of the respective territory.

 

As in many oral epics, multiple versions of the ramayana survive. In particular, the ramayana related in north India differs in important respects from that preserved in south India and the rest of south-east Asia. There is an extensive tradition of oral storytelling based on the ramayana in Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, and Maldives. Father Kamil Bulke, author of Ramakatha, has identified over 300 variants of Ramayana. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramayana

Here in Phnom Penh, Guests from various countries thoroughly enjoyed the rendition and felt the connect.

The connect was not only because of Ramayana, but due to the immensely talented artists who performed on stage – who brought the characters in true picture. The enthralled spectators would have been comparing their version of Ramayana with that performed on stage.

 

the artists

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vocalists

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and instrumentalists

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The Performances were a class apart, with the incomparable discipline in the steps and outstanding co-ordination of movements, the super speciality of Bharata Natyam.The traditional way of having the vocalists and instrumentalists on the side stage, with live music was another feather on the cap!

Rukmini Devi based her production largely on Valmiki’s classical version, but had made minor differences in the sequence of events. In her own words –

 

There are certain fundamental differences between Valmiki, Kambar and the great Ramayana poets. There is no definite mention in Valmiki of Surpanakha transforming herself into a beautiful maiden in order to tempt Sri Rama.
We are also accustomed to think Ravana lifting Sita with the part of the earth on which she was, to protect himself from magnetism which was like fire, destroying him. This is not so according to the Valmiki version, which says Ravana lifted her physically.
I have made slight differences in the sequence of events for it is important to think of what appears best on the stage. – Rukmini Devi Arundale

 

The performances were done under three themes, one on each day –
1. Jatayu Moksham
2. Choodamani Pradhanam
3. Mahapattabhishekam

These are some of the pictures which would explain the sheer beauty and poise of the dance and the stunning stageappearance and the almost real characters on stage!

In Tamil, names have the suffix  ‘an’ for male names as raman, lakshmanan, bharathan and ravanan; and here ‘ai’ for female names as in seethai and surpanakai. As I am comfortable in addressing the characters in the Tamil version, the names are mentioned likewise.
1. Jatayu Moksham

For info on the topic, I found this blog – http://ramayanainfo.blogspot.com/2010/06/jataayu-moksha.html%22 helpful.

 

seethai, raman and lakshmanan

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raman and seethai

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encounter with surpanakai, ravanan’s sister

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ravanan in his court

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ravanan disguised as an ascetic to kidnap seethai

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ravanan kills jatayu

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2. Choodamani Pradhanam and Lanka Dhahanam

Please refer http://srimadramayana.blogspot.com/2007/04/choodamani-pradanam.html for the story of the episode.

Also http://www.kalakshetra.net/choodamani_pradanam.html

 

hanuman lifts raman and lakshmanan

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war between vali and sugreevan

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the war

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hanuman watches the pathetic state of seethai from behind the bushes

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seethai hands over her ornament to hanuman

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3. Maha Pattabhishekam

Read http://www.kalakshetra.net/maha_pattabhishekam.html for details of the story.

 

war between raman and ravanan

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post war – seethai meets raman

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raman accepts seethai

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raman and seethai arrive for the coronation

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elegance personified

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Mahapattabhishekam

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Crisp Steps of ‘Bharatha Natyam’, co-ordinated with other forms like ‘Kathakali’ made the performance an undoubtedly unique affair. The make-up, jewellery and the importance given to costumes gave a feel of a celestial wonder!

The verses sung were in Sanskrit from the original Valmiki Ramayana. Yet, the translated version which was displayed continuously on side monitors helped in comprehension of the scenes better.

 

Committed to artistic excellence whether in classrooms, in auditoria or during tours around the world (as a performance company), Kalakshetra productions are widely recognized for their in-depth research, impeccable technique and refined aesthetics.

 

Formerly, the Buddhist festival was held at Wat Ounalom, with the Himalayan monks performing Lama Chanting, a specialized form of chanting that produces multiple distinct pitches simultaneously. The monks also created sand mandalas and butter sculptures showing an innovative version of Buddhist worship medium. A photo exhibition named Dhamma Dharshan portrayed various aspects of Buddha’s life and the eight important places in the life of Buddha – the venues located in India. It was surely a wonderful journey and a unique experience of knowledge gaining of the great Man’s life under one roof.

Still in store – a Food Festival and Film Festival are also being organized here in Cambodia in the month of April, as part of the Festival of India. Surely the True Flavor of India!

Trey Chamhoi/Cambodian Steamed Fish

 

floating village of tonle sap

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The Tonle Sap is one of the most critical freshwater ecosystems in the Mekong River Basin. It is the largest lake in South East Asia, home to a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, a Ramsar site, and the most important inland fishery in Cambodia.http://www.mekongriver.info/tonle-sap

 

Having completed 13 months in Cambodia, I have started learning a few khmer dishes. Thanks to my helper and a good friend ‘D’, we not only relish the local cuisine but additionally enjoy it making at home – just a short commutation of the dish from kitchen to dining table.

In the Kingdom of Cambodia, Fish is a staple, and it can unambiguously be said that “Fish enjoys almost the royal status of Rice.” A true convert that I am, I do not miss the country flavor of the local fishes.

 

The staple diet of Khmer is fresh water fish. With the abundant supply of fish (said to be 600 different species in the Tonle Sap lake), it is not surprising that the Khmer love to eat fish!

If you are in Cambodia during November to February, there is a week per month where you may be able to see lots of fishing activity along the riverfront in Phnom Penh. Here the Mekhong and Sap rivers come together and the fish is very plentiful during this season. The Khmer make use of this season and not only eat the fish fresh but dry, smoke, ferment and make it into fish sauce so they can use it during lean times as their main source of proteinhttp://www.cambodiauncovered.com/cambodia/fishing.html

 

A glance of the varieties of fish available at the market –

medium and small

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and bigger

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variety

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the favorite among Cambodians – fish head

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shrimps and seafood too

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I am also a picky eater when it comes to fish – lesser the bones easier for me and I suppose for most of those who are reading this post too. But, with the very little knowledge that I have gained within these years about fishes, I keep one thing in mind – smaller the fish , lesser the fat. Certain varieties of smaller fish may be less in Omega 3 but  are certainly less in the mercury content and hence safer.

So, I get any fish with a maximum weight of 1 kg and mostly 2 fishes at 1.75 kgs put together. This is for my Meen Kuzhambu (fish curry), Varutha Meen (fish fry), steamed fish cambodian style or a cambodian fish soup. I also buy the somewhat look-alike neththili of Chiriya Meen (very small fish) – (https://dosaikal.com/2013/04/05/varutha-meen-varutha-kathirikkai-with-thaalicha-paruppu-pan-fried-fish-and-pan-fried-eggplant-with-seasoned-lentil) – fishes as small as half your index finger, which also make the best healthy crispy chips on earth, while grilled in the oven.

 

meen kuzhambu – fish curry

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small fish – crisply fried

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I find some fishes have a distinct smell or flavor of the soil. Yes, the fish when cooked has a muddy flavor. Yet, I am not competent enough to identify the differences in taste of river or sea varieties.

I know there are genetically marine souls over there who feel those tiny fishes make wonderful kuzhambus/curries and thokkus/thick curries. That’s not for lazy, fearful converts like me- the very thought of removing bones or chewing with the bones threatens me!

Above all, there is also the attached mistrust of the younger lady of the house aka daughter, who prefers appa when it comes to removing bones from cooked fish. “Amma always keeps a few bones and it is so risky you know…” she says – Good for me and one job less in my pocket!
Trey Chamhoy –  Steamed Fish 

 

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Trey is Fish in Khmer. This one is the version of my Khmer friend who also cooks good Indian food. So, please let me know of the changes you make in your Cambodian steamed fish!

Yet, I promise I did not make any Indianised Cambodian Fish..

 

Cambodia’s preferred source of protein is freshwater fish, caught mainly from the Tonle Sap and from the Tonle Sab, the Mekong, and the Basak rivers. Cambodians eat it fresh, salted, smoked, or made into fish sauce and paste. http://countrystudies.us/cambodia/65.htm

 

This one has the flavor of raw mangoes and is steamed in banana leaf.
Facts about how I use the Fish

 

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  1. I use two fishes 1.75 kgs put together.
  2. I do not use the head of the fish.
  3. Each fish is cut into two halves.
  4. So, I get 4 medium size pieces.
  5. How many fishes to be used, depends on how many pieces each member would need.

I. Needed most – Any kind of Steamer

 

II. Ingredients (serves two to four)

 

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  • fish (any variety) – 2 no.s cut into 4 pieces
  • shallots – 4 no.s finely sliced
  • green chillies – 3 no.s
  • fresh red chillies – 3 no.s
  • spring onions – 2 or 3 bunches cut to the length of other juliennes
  • garlic – 6 cloves
  • ginger – 1 inch piece
  • carrot – 1 medium
  • raw mango – 1/2
  • radish – 1 small
  • salt – to taste
  • pepper powder – 1/2 tsp or as preferred

All vegetables finely julienned.
Instead of the above vegetables – can also use
1. capsicum in various colors – red, yellow and green
2. no vegetables and only mint and coriander leaves with ginger juliennes
3. any preferred vegetable of one’s choice but I’d avoid those which let out water like cucumber or guards.
III. To wrap up in the steamer

  • aluminum foil to wrap up the steaming vessel first, so that the soup/broth that cooks with the fish doesn’t fall in the water below
  • fresh banana leaf to cover the steaming vessel

 

steamer vessel with holes

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Method of Preparation
1. Steamer

 

  1. Make the steamer ready by wrapping first with aluminum foil
  2. Then place the banana leaves to cover the base

 

aluminum foil

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banana leaf

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2. Fish

  1. Cut and wash fish into two halves each
  2. Rub salt and pepper powder on the fishes

3. Vegetables

Cut, slice and julienne the vegetables and mix together

 

4. To steam
1. Spread half of the vegetables on the banana leaf randomly

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2. Place the fish pieces on the vegetable layer

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3. Cover the fish with the remaining vegetables

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4. Close the veggie-fish combination with a layer of banana leaves and place the vessel inside the steamer

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5. Close the lid of the steamer
6. Steam for 15-20 minutes
7. Serve with the vegetables and soup/broth that lies beneath
8. Serve with hot rice.

Ready!

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awesome twosome

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