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Cambodia

L.A. is currently under a thick cover of clouds. There is something about rain and fog that always excites me and makes me want to plan some new adventure. So as I sit here, listening to the rain drum on my windows I can’t help but reminisce about a month-long trip I took this summer to South East Asia.

In particular, I am reminded of my time in Cambodia, a place steeped in history and culture. But, being a third world country and one just emerging from a time of intense sadness and fear I find myself thinking about what today, December 7, 2009 looks like for them.

When my friend and I visited, it was just on the verge of monsoon season. We spent some time in the stilted village of Kompong Khleang next to Tonle Sap Lake.

In the rainy season the river rises so that the villagers have to use boats to travel from place to place. This is why their houses are built on stilts up to 39 feet above the ground!

While the community rarely sees Americans, they welcomed us with open arms. They showed us how to eat Lotus Seeds, which come from the pods of Lotus plants. I thought this particularly interesting since I had grown up only seeing Lotus Pods used in expensive floral arrangements!

In order to eat the seeds you have to break open the pods and pull out the seeds which look like little green balls. Then bite the balls in half and remove the root before eating the seeds. The root is very bitter, but the rest of the seed is mild and crunchy.

The village has no electricity or running water. The villagers diet consists mainly of rice and fish. Here are pictures of what a familys kitchen looks like.

The family we stayed with made us a traditional dessert called Baw Baw Pot. It is similar to Tapioca Pudding. It was made of Coconut Milk, Corn and Tapioca balls. Here you can see a recipe for it: http://bit.ly/dessertrecipe

In South East Asia it is common to eat insects. Our guide showed us how they catch grasshoppers. This was one delicacy I did not try. Sadly I am not that adventurous.

In order to catch grasshoppers a trough is filled with water and a large piece of plastic is strung above it. A light is hung at the top of the plastic. In the evening the light is turned on and the grasshoppers jump towards the light, hit the plastic sheet and fall into the water. In the morning the grasshoppers are collected and fried. Pretty smart set up!

One of the other food experiences that really stood out for me was when we visited a school. Outside the school were little carts selling food for the kids to eat. One stand was selling snow cones. It was so great to watch the process! They had a block of ice that they shaved by hand on a Mandoline-like contraption, packed the shavings into a cup, placed a stick in the center and then pulled the Icee from the cup and poured syrup on it.

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