Tag Archives: steamed rice cakes

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.

 

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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.

 

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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Idli – Steamed Rice Cakes

Idli is a breakfast food of south india. Very light and fluffy, easy to digest and very healthy – no oil involved and no frying – hurrah – it is steamed! It is the same fermented batter we saw for dosai – the combination of parboiled rice and dehusked black gram. It goes generally like this – idlis for breakfast, rice and curries for lunch and dosais for dinner. Idlis and dosais can be interchanged between breakfasts and dinners. Idlis are had with different kinds of chutneys (https://dosaikal.com/category/chutneys/) and sambars.

When one has a stomach upset, fever or the simplest ailment of all – laziness – if the batter is already made and stored in fridge – not to worry at all – quick and easy – soft and fluffy – idlis can take care of most of the simple health problems.

Idlis are usually never steamed beforehand and stored in hotcases. People get ready to go to the dining table – the women of the house start steaming idlis. It takes about 8 to 10 minutes to be ready. They go piping hot from the steaming mould to the breakfast or dinner plates or banana leaves. Immediately greased with ghee or gingelly oil as per preference and without delay soaked in sambar with a roll of the day’s chutney – are transferred straight into the tummy after some teeth work!

How much impatient a person might be, he would always be patient to wait for the steaming hot idlis. When thatha/grandfather is called to the breakfast table, he takes his plate, serves himself chutney and starts tapping the table like a tabla player, patiently waiting for not less than 5 minutes till idlis are ready to arrive on his plate.

When there are four or five members on the breakfast table or traditionally on the floor, each gets two idlis initially. By the time these are done, there might be a waiting time for quick eaters – till the next set arrives from the steamer. There is no problem waiting – what is most important is the piping hot soft texture of Idlis!

Truly, the lifetime of Idlis is too short. If we calculate from the time they are steamed to the time they go to the plate and within seconds they enter one’s food system – poor idlis… they live for a very little time – but deliver so well in such a short life span!

modern idli cooker

 

traditional idli kopparai

 

Idli/Steamed Rice Cakes

Ingredients

Idli Batter – as needed (https://dosaikal.com/tag/idli/dosa-batter/)

Method of Preparation

  1. Idli is made from a mould. The modern idli cooker generally has a stand with 4 layers or more – each plate makes 4 idlis
  2. The traditional idli maker is called Idli Kopparai – the idlis are comparatively bigger in size – the idli kopparai I have makes 13 idlis at a time – quite big ones
  3. Boil water in the steamer vessel 
  4. Grease the idli moulds with very little oil – this helps idlis to come out easily
  5. Mix the batter well and pour into mould till 3/4th to give space to rise well
  6. Steam in medium heat for 10 minutes
  7. To check whether idlis are done, prick either with a toothpick or knife – it should come out clean

 idli in mould

 

bowl with water and ladle

 

 

 To remove Idlis from mould

  1. Take a small bowl with water
  2. Easiest article to take idlis out is the plastic ladle of mixer grinder
  3. After the idlis are done, take the moulds out of the steamer and wait for 2 minutes
  4. Taking the idlis immediately out of the moulds might disfigure the idlis
  5. Dip the ladle in water and remove idlis
  6. Serve idlis with the day’s chutney (https://dosaikal.com/category/chutneys/), sambar or gun powder chutney.

steamed idlis