Updated: Dec 23, 2021
A gourmet exploration of the ancestral ties between the Indian subcontinent and Cambodia's own culinary traditions.
H.E. Devyani Khobragade, the Ambassador of India to Cambodia, had a great (and flavorful) idea to mark the end of this year celebrations of Diwali in Phnom Penh: throwing a dinner party designed as a Culinary Journey from India to Cambodia.
On December 20, 2021, guests gathered in the refined gardens and dining areas at Kravanh Restaurant to taste a traditional Cambodian dish mastered by resident Chef Kakada, steamed fish in banana leaf with Khmer paste (ត្រីចំហុយក្នុងស្លឹកចេក), along with typical Central and South Indian siders such as shaami kabab and bhindi bhaji, and stir fryed vegetables.
In her remarks, Dr. Devyani Khobagrade emphasized the manifold cultural influences from India around Southeast Asia, and in Cambodia. Several Cambodian chefs attended the culinary event, including Chef Sao Sopheak, the author of The Taste of Cambodia, a cookbook issued this year as part of the official campaign "Food Diplomacy".
Kingdom of Cambodia officials -- HH Norodom Chansita, HRH Sisowath Tesso, HE Dr. Ing Kantha Phavi, Minister of Women’s Affairs, HE Chhit Sokhon, Minister of Cults and Religions --, culinary experts and, since cuisine is also an art, numerous renowned visual and performing artists enjoyed the dinner, with a video contribution from famed Indian chef Ranveen Brar, who was not able to travel to Cambodia this time. Anicca Foundation, one of the supporting organizations, was represented by its founder, Marina Pok.
Topics of many table conversations covered the themes addressed in the video screening during the event, and in particular in the stimulating remarks by Professor Ang Choulean:how the Khmer civilization did process Indian cultural influences to develop its idiosyncratic religious, artistic and social references? how deeply a relatively landlocked kingdom was impacted by the historic trends in global commerce, intercontinental and regional maritime trade?
Keeping in mind that a heated debate is still going in Europe about who, from the French or the Italians, really invented the notion of "haute cuisine",it is for sure that tracing origins and attempting a comparative history of distinctive culinary traditions will kindle many further discussions. After all, the art of cooking and the art of conversation go hand in hand...
Note 1: In addition to hosting the India-Cambodia event, Kravanh has designed a 'Royal Menu' inspired by the recipes from The Culinary Art of Cambodia by HRH Samdech Norodom Rasmi Sobbhana, a book published in a complete English-Khmer version in May 2021 for the benefit of the Sobbhana Foundation for Women and the Reaksmey Sophoan Pagoda in Kandal Province.
Note 2: Angkor Database has collated several reference documents related to this stimulating exchange of ideas and historic perspectives.