Num Ansom cake is known to all Cambodians and is popular during major festivals, especially Pchum Ben. They are an important part of the Khmer identity, but there is only a small group of people – predominantly older women – who understand how to prepare them and wrap them in the traditional banana leaf packaging. This has led to concerns that the knowledge may one day be lost.
The Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia (UYFC) recently organised an event called “Let’s Pack Num Ansom Together”, with many of the young people who participated saying they would like a similar event to be held every year, hoping it would inspire the younger generation to maintain the delicate art.
Among the large crowd at the September 15 event, Thai Sinmonireaksa, a 12th grade student, described how he was excited to be a part of this important traditional activity.
“I hope that we don’t lose sight of the things that make us Khmer though. If we ignore these traditions, they may be lost to us,” he added.
Khorn Leang Eng, another of the participants, said she was very pleased to learn how to pack these uniquely Khmer cakes from experts.
“Packing Ansom is really difficult! Maybe this is the reason why not many people want to learn any more,” she said.
She encouraged more youths to participate, believing that it would help youths to understand the process, and also experience the community relation building that Cambodians have always had.
Another well known participant, who most people know through environment promoting events “Run with Sai”, Uon Pakthom – known as Sai – admitted that he was a proud Cambodian, but did not know how to prepare the cakes.
“I enjoy the cakes at every festival, but I had no idea how difficult they are to pack,” he said.
He added that he thought it was difficult for young people to learn how to prepare them. Even if they wanted to know, they did not know where they could go to be taught. That was the driving force for the event, he said.
The event was held at the head office of the UYFC in Phnom Penh, and ran for three days from September 15, 17 and 18. The days were selected to correspond with the 5th, 7th and 8th Kan Ben Days, which are part of the 15-day Pchum Ben Observance. The event was open to the public and free of charge.