Cambodian Buddhist New Year
Cambodians first came to the Bronx as immigrants from the Pol Pot genocide, and since then have been trying to preserve a tenuous link to the country that was taken from them. The organization's invitation suggested that the event was about more then just religious observance: "when we practice and improve our civilization in everyday life, we really make our Cambodia alive, strong, and progressive."
Lemongrass and fish paste soup
Many of the borough's Cambodians hail from the northern city of Battambang, a heritage reflected in dishes like this lemongrass and fish paste soup garnished with peanuts and served with noodles. Congregation member Rotanna explained that the paste is best made with tilapia boiled with lemongrass, lime leaves, garlic, and salt. The broth is then mixed with tamarind and more lemongrass to create the paste. Despite the presence of earthy turmeric, the soup was decidedly sweet: no doubt thanks to the mung bean paste, flavored with shrimp paste and chiles.
Others, such as these chow mein-like noodles with assorted vegetables, epitomized the home cooked element of the day.
Those who don't like the funk need not apply. But this ubiquitous sweet fish paste, chopping prahok, beckons those who do. Spread over bits of fresh eggplant and other vegetables, it was a real treat.
Desserts disappeared quickly. Several were made with coconut milk, including this one with pumpkin, sugar, and tapioca.
Sunday's buffet was the largest: four varieties of rice (with eggs, vegetables, and sweet sausage), noodles with pickled vegetables, fried chicken, and a fantastic fried taro. Beef shish kabobs, prepared with a sweet marinade, vanished quickly.
Sunday also brought the Cambodian equivalent of bunh: a spread of vermicelli noodles, bean sprouts, boiled pork, shrimp, fresh vegetables, lettuce, and herbs (mint and possibly slek kantroop). Though chopsticks were available, it was more fun to wrap everything in the lettuce and dip it in sauce.