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The Cambodian Night at Taipei

Phina So
July17/ 2016

This blog shares with you about the Cambodian Night my fellows and I organized in Taipei last month. We were on a two-week cultural exchange and while we were learning from Taiwan, we were also asked to host a Cambodian night where we introduced Taiwanese art community about Khmer culture. So, we made Khmer dishes and showed them Khmer popular dance.

There was a story about the edible flowers (ផ្កាកំប្លោក) we found at a pond at the Taipei National University of the Arts (TNUA) which led to the idea of cooking Toeuk Kreoung, one of the favorite Khmer dishes. The dish, Toeuk Kreoung, is made from cooked fish with fish paste and served with both fresh and semi-cooked vegetables.

(Photo: So Phina)
(Photo: So Phina)

Once we found the flower, we told Sherry, our Taiwanese colleague:
“hey, we eat that flower!”
“Oh, really?” Her eyes grew bigger with surprise.

The flower was the inspiration behind the strong determination of cooking Toeuk Kreoung! I use the adjective ‘strong’ here because we know that cooking Toeuk Kreoung in Taiwan is not easy. I knew that we are going to find enough ingredients especially the fist paste (ប្រហុក). However, the flower just made us want to make it.

Although we didn’t have all the ingredients we need, we successfully made it with the help of Onn Sokny and Song Seng. We served it with nicely decorated vegetables (as shown in the photos below).

And here is the result.

(Photo: So Phina)
(Photo: So Phina)

In order to bring the flowers, our Cambodian friend Dara and a dear Taiwanese friend, Chi-Yu, made their trip to the university. They told that they had to provide a long explanation to the guard. The reasonable guard allowed them to pick some of the edible flower and he would just pretend that he did not know. Personally, I really appreciate the kindness of the guard that he took the risk to let the flowers to be picked.

After the dinner was served, Dara started to introduce the attendants how to dance our beloved Circle Dance or Rom Vong in Khmer language. Somehow, he said that the dance probably was the time that young Cambodian people flirt. He said long time ago, Cambodian women and men were not even allow to talk to each other! Wait, I mean it does not really true. We were raised in a strict culture that open relationship and premarital sex is not promoted, it does not mean we could not talk. We could but probably we must be very cautious.

It was interesting to learn that Taiwan does not have their own popular dance like us. They have Tango, Chachacha etc but not the type of dances like we do. Also, they don’t dance a lot. Unlike us, we dance all the time: wedding, party, Khmer New Year…the list goes on.

It was a wonderful night where so many curious and friendly Taiwanese came to our Cambodian night. We ate, danced, and talked. It took a long time to end the night.

I met a Cambodian publisher, Vandy Ratana and his French wife. He gave me two heavy books to bring home.