A lot of people enjoy eating Khmer noodles as much they like taking for evening stroll. In that case, sitting down for dinner in Phnom Penh may feel as comfortable as slipping on a pair of walking shoes. Noodles are best when served fresh.
Traditional noodles can be eaten with Samlor Khmer (Khmer soup), Samlor Kary (Curry), or plain with fish sauce. Kim Sansopack, a student, likes variety in his diet. “I like my noodles with Samlor Khmer because I can go along with it without feeling bored like with other Samlor, and especially because it has a very good smell.”
Vann Tha, who has been making noodles for as long she can remember, explained how to make Nom Banchok noodles. “At first we have to clean rice and put it in hot water to make it soft and grind it with a small amount of salt,” she said. “Then place the mix in a soft cotton cloth to filter out the water. Fold the cloth with the mix in it and press it under a heavy object to get rid of excess water.” The mix should be dry but sticky. She then pounds the dough until it becomes very soft and sticky, at which point she presses it into a dispenser made with holes at one end.
The dough is squeezed through the holes, from which it falls in strips into boiling water. To ensure that the noodles do not stick together, an assistant stirs and lifts them from boiling water into a pail of cold water, where they become less starchy. The noodles then are placed on a tray and folded neatly into what consumers see sold in stalls on the street. “It is really quite a tedious process,” Vann Tha sighed. Prahok (Khmer cheese), sugar, and salt are then prepared. Hungry bellies are growling by now. “Put the Khmer cheese, spices, and everything you’ve prepared in the water and let it all boil for about 7-8 minutes. It’s that simple,” she said. Distant observers may disagree.
According to these experts, the preparation and serving of noodles has changed little over the years. Rich and poor across the region can attest that Nom Banchok Samlor has proven the test of time.
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