L'Art de la cuisine cambodgienne (The Cambodian Cookbook)
by Princess Rasmi Sobhana Kanitha Norodom
Languages : English, French1960 - Facsimile of the original edition, courtesy of H.R.H. Sisowath Tesso. (#2 at Angkor Database Library) - 245 pages - Paperback United States Information Service, Phnom Penh
Initiated as a collection of cooking recipes for the young pupils of the Sutharot School in Phnom Penh, Princess Norodom Rasmi Sobhana's book became an important recension of traditional Cambodian cuisine. While Indian, Chinese and Southeast Asian influences are noticeable, the core of Cambodian diet and culinary techniques can be traced back to the ancient history of the Kingdom.
The difference between "royal" and "popular" cuisines in Cambodia never came to be as marked as in Laotian or Thai traditions. The recipes detailed in this book reflect what Cambodians used to eat during centuries as a mostly agrarian society, with a significantly diverse diet where fish, vegetables and harvested leaves, seeds and roots were (and remain) essential.
Princess Rasmi Sobhana at the White House with President Kennedy in 1963 (JFK Archives)
- King Sihanouk (who had been a student at the Sutharot School, where the author taught) used his aunt's book when he developed cooking as a hobby during his exile in China and North Korea in the 1980s. With another of his aunts, Princess Norodom Keth Kanyamom (also a daughter of King Sutharot's), the King explored traditional cuisine and even authored his own recipe, "Petits gateaux de banane au beurre de cacahuete et caramel" (Peanut butter and caramel flavored Banana Cakes).
- In 2000, King Sihanouk prefaced the book The Cuisine of Cambodia by Bangkok-based author Nusara Thaitawat, which refers to Princess Rasmi Sobhana's recipe collection.
- Gala dinners showcasing some of Princess Rasmi Sobhana's recipes have been held at the Shangri-La Hotel (Changchun, China) and The Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor (Siem Reap)
(Photos from King Norodom' Sihanouk's official website)
About the Author
Princess Rasmi Sobhana Kanitha Norodom
S.A.R. Princess Norodom Kanitha Rasmi Sobhana, daughter of King Norodom Sutharot and Norodom Phangangam, was the sister of King Norodom Suramarit, sister-in-law of Queen Kossamak of Cambodia and aunt of King Norodom Sihanouk.
Unmarried, she dedicated her life to social action, in particular the education and empowerment of young women in the Kingdom of Cambodia, as a teacher at Phnom Penh Sutharot School and as the author of two published books: Motifs décoratifs Khmers a l'usage de la broderie (1954) and L'Art de la cuisine cambodgienne (1960).
In 1985, H.R.H. Princess Norodom Ranaridh Marie created the Samdech Rasmi Sobbhana Women's Foundation, named after S.A.R. Princess Rasmi Sobhana. Initially a shelter for war orphans and refugee children on the Thai-Cambodian border, the Sobbhana Foundation opened three training centers helping young Cambodians to master traditional craft skills such as silk weaving, embroidery or wood carving.