Pchum Ben Holiday

School was closed last for Pchum Ben Festival last Thursday and Friday (3rd and 4th October) It rained all that Thursday, Friday and Saturday, finally clearing up a little sometime on Sunday. The dorm students were well pleased that it rained because that meant they didn’t have to work in the gardens.

There was no time to be bored though. Rice Cake making was on the cards. On Sunday, three of the students braved the rain and flooding to go and get ingredients and supplies for making the rice cakes from their home – a village about an hours motorbike ride from here in dry conditions. Then on Friday morning they all gathered round to prepare the cakes for cooking.

They prepared 2 kinds of cake. One is called Nom Jake (Banana Cake) and I’m not sure what the other is called, but it was made of exactly the same ingredients as Nom Jake minus the jake (banana) and was wrapped in different leaves for cooking.

First they collect and clean the banana palm and other palm leaves. While others inside are preparing a raw sticky rice, coconut and black bean mix.

Dorm students cleaning palm leaves for cooking rice cakes

Dorm students cleaning palm leaves for cooking rice cakes

Sticky rice, coconut and bean mix

Sticky rice, coconut and bean mix

They then put the mix onto the leaves that are folded in various shapes that don’t need extra tying or into tubes with extra shredded leaves used to tie them firmly shut. The Nom Jake is cooked in the banana leaves. They put a layer of rice mix and then add a banana to the center and wrap it all up. After that, they are steamed for a long time and then eaten – usually with palm sugar. They can be kept for a couple of days.

Nom Jake

Nom Jake – banana already added

Nom Jake ready for steaming

Nom Jake ready for steaming

The other cake being filled and folded.

The other cake being filled and folded.

Ready for steaming

Ready for steaming

And here’s a picture of the finished product.

Nom Jake - Ready to eat!

Nom Jake – Ready to eat!

There are quite a few types of sticky rice cake that the Khmer make. Some have mung beans, some have a coconut/sugar/peanut mix. Some are made from sticky rice flour and some have pumpkin. I was treated to the latter – pumpkin sticky rice cake. I’d never tasted that one before and it, in my opinion is the best.

Pumpkin Sticky Rice Flour Cake - a gift from one of my dorm girl's mum

Pumpkin Sticky Rice Flour Cake – a gift from one of my dorm girl’s mum.

In other news; although it has stopped raining (for now) the water level is still rising as excess water flows from Thailand into Cambodia. In 2011 the city of Siem Reap flooded quite badly, so in 2012 they tried to solve that problem by diverting the water that flowed into the Siem Reap river into 2 different rivers and also into the Baray. Well it worked. The city of Siem Reap isn’t flooded this year… but some of the areas surrounding the city have because of this prevention method! Our driveway was today, completely under water and it was reported that the airport was also flooded last night. Here, the big pond beside the boys dorm has been filling up all day and has even overflowed at one end. We aren’t flooded yet, just surrounded by water on all sides. Hopefully the flood waters will go down soon. Some of our outside students haven’t been able to attend school because of all the extra water. Many peoples homes are flooded, some up to waist deep. There is also flooding in some of the other provinces in Cambodia. I’ll leave you with some pictures of the pond and the driveway.

WPY Driveway - looking back down the driveway towards the property - it's a bit of a long driveway

WPY Driveway – looking back down the driveway towards the property – it’s a bit of a long driveway

The driveway from the WPY end. You can see the welcome arch at the other end if you look carefully.

The driveway from the WPY end. You can see the welcome arch at the other end if you look carefully.

A scorpion I found on the underside of a tree branch, up there to escape the flood waters.

A scorpion I found on the underside of a tree branch, up there to escape the flood waters.

The pond near the boys dorm. I've never seen the water level this high.

The pond near the boys dorm. I’ve never seen the water level this high.

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