Num Cheal – Pchum Ben Day’s Cake
Num Cheal (នំជាល) is one of Khmer traditional cakes that has exist until today. Num Cheal has its origin in Kampong Chhang province and has become popular all over country of Cambodia. Cheal is the round container made of bamboo slices, could be 8-10 cm in diameter and about 15 cm high. Num Cheal is contained in it and steam, that’s why the cake is so called.
Num Cheal is usually made during Pchum Ben Day just like Num Ansom (sticky rice cake). They have got another name as ‘Pchum Ben Cake’. Mostly when people visit their families in the provinces on Pchum Ben Day, they will come back to the city with Num Ansom and Num Cheal.
Read further in case you would like to find out how Num Cheal has been made.
- Sticky rice
- Palm sugar
- Soak sticky rice for one hour, then mill, drain, and press it hard
- Mix the sticky rice dough with palm sugar, shredded coconut meat, sesames, and add a little salt. However, if we want to keep it for serving in a longer time, coconut meat is excluded.
- Place plastic bag inside the containers and then pour the mixed dough into the containers. Arrange the containers in the steamer or steaming pot. In the past, when there is no plastic bag, banana leave is used.
- Num Cheal need about one hour steaming in order to be cooked, after that leave it cool and dry it in the sunlight.
How to serve Num Cheal?
Though after steamed the cake is cooked, but Num Cheal is served after fried. So after dried Num Cheal can be kept for months (if made without coconut meat). Whenever want to eat, slice the cake into thin pieces and fry with little cooking oil on low heat.
Num Cheal is nice to eat when it’s still hot. After fried the cake is not completely become crispy like other fried foods, but the mixture of crispy and soft. If it’s kept cool, the cake becomes hard.
Even thought modern people might not like Num Cheal very much, however, Num Cheal is still a popular cake for annual events, Pchum Ben Day. Everyone will have only one chance to eat Num Cheal in a year. And the city people are happy to have it come back home.
Num plae ai (ផ្លែអាយ) or glutinous rice balls with sugar candy filling is a kind of Khmer traditional sweet. The cake is made into small slippery rice balls with palm sugar filled. It is a kind of special sweet for sugar lovers.
The origin of its name is uncertain. Num means cake, plae means fruit, and ai is just a word of name. So it’s to be translated as ai fruit cake which we don’t know what is ai fruit. According to a Khmer legend, num plae ai has a another name as ‘kill husband cake’. A wife preprared num plae ai for her husband to serve in order to kill him because he has betrayed her by having a love affair with anther woman. The filling of num plae ai is very sweet and the sticky rice flour cover is slippery, so it’s easily get stuck in the husband’s throat and cause him to choke. However, the reality proved that there is no such danger serving num plae ai
Num plae ai is very easy to prepare, here is how.
- 250 g sticky rice flour
- 100 g palm sugar candy: cut it into small cube pieces (about the size of your finger tip)
- young grated coconut
Mix sticky rice with about 100 ml of water, then the flour turns into a form of soft that we can make it into any shape. Now make it into balls of about 1.5 cm in diameter, then insert the sugar cube into the ball as filling.
Have a pot of boiling water ready on fire with moderate heat. After the ball is inserted with sugar cube, put it into the pot, when the balls float up, they are cooked. Take it out to another bow of cold water. One minute later, drain it out to a basket with holes. The process is continuosly like this.
Num plae ai is usually packed up in a package made of banana leaf which look very nice. Each package contains 5-7 balls and is top with young grated coconut.
Break the ball with your one bite, you will immediately feel the special sweetness of num plae ai.
Num Kom (នំគម) and Num Bort (នំបថ) are traditional Khmer cake just like num Ansom. People will make them on special occasions in the family or festivals of the years. It’s treated as a Khmer dignitary cake for serving guesses who participate any ceremony at home such as house warming ceremony, Buddhist ceremony at home, engagement ceremony, especially they are among the dowry together with many other cakes and fruits that the groom family must deliver to the bride family on their wedding day. And then the cakes might be served as dessert for the guesses at the wedding (usually for the morning ceremony).