Had the good fortune to be invited to a Khmer banquet the other day. My roommate Jessica works for Maxima, one of the many microfinance institutions operating in Phnom Penh, and invited me to their 8th anniversary celebration.
It was also International Women’s Day. I’d never heard of International Women’s Day, but it’s a national holiday here and apparently Cambodians take celebrating it very seriously.
Food was served at 11:30 am. Copious amounts of Khmer staples: grilled beef, roast chicken, fish smothered in green mango, prahok, mystery vegetables, salty dipping sauces of unknown origin. And lots of cold beer, mostly Angkor and ABC stout. The old timers preferred something stronger.
They’d mix it with anything liquid: Coke, club soda, water, Fanta, beer, straight or on the rocks.
Conversation with them was a challenging. Their English was adequate at best and deteriorated as they drained the Black Label. Mostly they spoke to us in an unintelligible mix of English, French, and Khmer. Every five minutes they would offer a toast, laughing uproariously and cracking me up in the process.
Dessert was jackfuit, mango, and some sort of warm coconut milk soup with floating bananas. The mangoes were hands-down the most deliciously ripe I’ve ever had.
Properly imbibed, everyone headed to the backyard for Khmer dancing & karaoke.
I made a fool of myself for a bit before retiring to the gazebo to watch the karaoke
Cambodians love karaoke, and everyone spent the better part of the afternoon croaking along to Khmer pop music blasted at a deafening volume. It was like being at a concert. After deciding enough damage had been done to my hearing, we hitched a ride back to Phnom Penh. The laundry situation had reached the crisis stage, and urgent action was needed.