Food in Khmer Culture
April 9, 2009
From 2001 to 2007, Reyum
Institute’s research team has conducted interviews of
elderly people (between 50 and 70 years old) as part of our
oral history project called a "Cambodian Memory Bank". Using
the information from this memory bank, we published a book
and curated an exhibition in 2003 called "Seams of Change:
Clothing and the care of the self in late 19th and 20th
The exhibition and
publication called "Food in Khmer Culture" we present here,
is also based on sources provided by interviewees from the
Cambodian Memory bank. The aim of this project is to look at
the meaning of food in Khmer culture from its cultural and
social point of view. It is not a cookbook, though we
provide examples of ingredients and different types of
In Cambodian society,
cooked rice or "Bay" in Khmer, is the central element in
food culture. Bay is also referred to as "preah me"
literally meaning, "mother god". The words for breakfast,
lunch and dinner all start with Bay: "Bay Preak", "Bay tgay
trang" and "Bay lgeach", respectively.
Therefore, food or "mhob"
in Khmer can be understood as accompanying elements to the
cooked rice. In our research we documented a variety of food
as well as different ways of preparing food depending on the
context (at home, in public spaces, or in ceremonies) and in
specific regions of Cambodia. It is not possible, and this
is not our intention, to present an exhaustive survey of
"food practice" in Cambodia. In this exhibition we only wish
to present a few examples of ingredients as well as types of
food through a photographic display. Further details are
available in the publication.
We would like to thank all
the elderly people who have shared their memories
participated in this project.
With the support of:
The Albert Kunstadter Family Foundation – The Rockefeller Foundation -