អាហារនៅជនបទអង្គ័រ La cuisine rurale d'Angkor | Rural Cuisine of Angkor
by Ang Choulean
Languages : French, Khmer2020 - 296 pages - Hardback Yosothor, Phnom Penh
For nearly two decades, the author has studied the culinary mores and diet of villagers in Angkor region (in particular the Roluos area), documented it with field notes and photographs. His findings demonstrate the historic continuity of Cambodian cooking from ancient times, the definitely rural and plant-based character of the Cambodian diet, and how aptly the apparent simplicity of village food responds to nutritional and gustatory needs.
Far from attempting a collection of cooking recipes, or developing a "structuralist" approach of the Cambodian agrarian society, the essay deals with "culinary situations": ,when, where, by whom, how, and with which purpose cooked food was and is still made in the context of villages close to Angkor Wat.
The research encompasses fishing and hunting techniques, agricultural skills, timing and location of the meals, cooking methods, use of spices -- fairly limited, even if the Cambodian pepper is praised worldwide --, special occasions, as well as linguistic and historic considerations.
Of particular interest are the author's reflection on the (surprisingly, for many researchers) limited, or even non-existent influence of Indian cuisine on rural Cambodia diet and tastes, while "tasting like Chinese food" informs festive meals, as a symbol of material wealth and prosperity.
At the core of the rural diet, we find the somla (stew), which the author presents in two main categories, somla mchou ("sour stew") and somla prohoc (the word prohoc defining here the "stimulating" taste given by herbs and leaves, not to be confused with prohok, the famous preparation of fermented fish). As for cooking techniques, the author defines for instance chha kdao, literally "hot sauteed", fried in a hot cooking liquid, and p-krek, a term mimicking the popping sound of ingredients just heated up in a pan without liquid or fat, "dry cooked", a technique used in particular for ants.
The symbolic of ingredients is also thoroughly explored. For instance, the author notes that lemongrass (citronella), while wildly used, is rarely kept in the final presentation of the dish, since villagers think ageing clumps of the aromatic herb may be inhabited by evil spirits.
Subtitle: Essai de sociologie culinaire.
About the Author
Ang Choulean អាំង ជូលាន (1 Jan 1949, Kompong Kleang, Cambodia) is an anthropologist, a professor of historical anthropology at the Royal University of Fine Arts and a former Director of the Department of Culture of APSARA.
He was the second Cambodian national to be granted the Fukuoka Grand Prize in 2011.
Ang Choulean is the author of numerous academic papers and books, including an ethnographic essay on Food and Cuisine in the Angkor Area (La cuisine d'Angkor, 2020).