Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cooking up something special to break Ramadan fast



Cooking up something special to break Ramadan fast

Hazan Norawniakasy’s family shares a meal to break their daily Ramadan fast. Photo supplied
Hazan Norawniakasy’s family shares a meal to break their daily Ramadan fast. Photo supplied

Cooking up something special to break Ramadan fast

“Iftar is more special than just a normal meal,” says Hazan “Kasy” Norawniakasy, who this week travelled from Phnom Penh, where he works as an English teacher, to his home in Pursat’s Kandieng district to celebrate Ramadan with his family.

For the 236,000 mostly Cham Muslims in Cambodia, next Thursday marks the end of a month of daily fasting from sunrise to sunset.

“In Pursat tonight, we have to break the fast at 6:35pm, but in the other provinces it’s a bit different,” 23-year-old Kasy said, noting that each community follows a calendar set by the local Islamic clergy for each night.

While the holiday is a time for spiritual reflection, charity, family and for the community to come together, the anticipation of iftar – the evening breaking of the fast – makes dinner a special occasion.

“It’s more delicious, and [there is] more food than normal,” Kasy said. “There’s a passion to eat, so people just make it more interesting”.

That can involve anything from a more elaborate and halal variation on the Khmer dish of gah koh (a chicken or fish curry made from coconut milk, young Jack fruit, pumpkin, young papaya, eggplant, chili leaves, maranga leaves, mushrooms, rice powder, peppers, chili leaves, garlic, lemongrass, and an assortment of other roots and spices), to traditional Cham dishes passed down through the generations, since the ethnic minority settled in the Kingdom during the 18th and 19th centuries.

“Tonight, we have a kind of rice porridge – phek – it is a traditional food for Cham people,” Kasy explained. It is made from coconut milk, baby pdau, fish, rice, lemon grass, yellow roots, garlic and various spices and leaves. It is also tradition, Kasy says, to drink milk or fruit juices with an iftar meal.

Kasy’s mother spends several hours every day preparing the iftar, which can be eaten at home with the family or at the local mosque, where participants each contribute a dish to be shared. “We call this cooperation eating – chumuvann – in the Cham language,” Kasy said.

This year, Kasy’s family is joined by a foreign visitor, Drew Lysne, a US Peace Corps volunteer hailing from the predominantly white Christian community of Boise, Idaho. Lysne has lived in their home in Sthany village for seven months. This is his first Ramadan.

“It’s the most different experience I could have imagined coming from Idaho,” he said. “It’s great.”

But for Kasy, Ramadan simply means having a taste of home.

“I love chicken. I have lived in Phnom Penh for five years, and I miss the chicken in my rural village so much.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Cambodia purchases 4 million Molnupiravir tablets

    Cambodia has arranged for the purchase of four million US-made Molnupiravir pills – enough to treat 100,000 Covid-19 patients – even though the current rate of daily infections in Cambodia remains low. The medicine will be distributed to state hospitals, pharmacies and private clinics, according to the Samdech

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • Is Cambodia’s travel sector in for another cheerless holiday season?

    The travel and tourism sector was heaving back to life as borders started to reopen, promising a festive vibe for the holidays and New Year. But Omicron and other Covid-related issues are threatening to close the year on a bleak note ‘Seems [like] Covid-19 won’

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Cambodia planning new border checkpoint at Thma Da

    Cambodia is looking into the possibility of opening a new Thma Da Border Checkpoint with Thailand to boost trade and tourism. The Ministry of Public Works and Transport said on December 4 that Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol led a technical working group