|Source: Khmer Forums
The very civil post I found by member "LC", simply headlined as "The World's First Noodles," recounts in detail the life of a legendary Cambodian "trickster" (hmm...), Dhmen Jay, a young man who lived at the start of the Common Era in Nokor Phnom, the first unified Khmer kingdom (AD 100-500). To make a long story short, he was exiled to China, got himself in and out of trouble and eventually left China wealthy for having introduced noodles to China.
Any claim for Mr. Dhmen to have invented noodles 2000 years ago, of course bumps up against science, since archaeologists have found a 4,000 year old bowl of noodles in Qinghai Province, China. It's possible, I suppose, he may have come up with the World's First Rice Noodles, or the World's First Fermented Rice Noodles to be specific, though to demo the making of such noodles he woiuld have to have traveled with more equipment than a rock band, judging from the must-see video in the middle of this post.
After dispensing with the legend of Dhmen Jay, poster LC provided some truly useful info about Khmer noodles:
"The world’s first noodles or not, Khmers love num banh chok, which is the name of our noodles, and also the names of the dishes made with these noodles. Num banh chok is fermented rice noodles. First, the rice is soaked in water to soften the grains. The rice is then grounded into a liquefied batter with a stone mill. Afterward, the batter is placed in a cloth bag and a heavy stone is placed on top to squeeze out water, while the dough begins to ferment in the process. The drying dough is then boiled until it becomes soft, before being transformed into a smooth dough. The transformation process includes a lot of pounding and another boiling. After the second boiling, the dough becomes very hard. Next, it is pounded in a large stone mortar with a wooden pestle. After the pounding, the dough transforms from a hard ball to a smooth, elastic dough. It requires additional kneading by hand for some time. The dough turns snow-white; it looks almost like whipped cream cheese, and finally the dough is ready to be turned into noodles. The dough is spooned into a metal mold with a perforated bottom. Once the mold is filled, it is pressed down through the perforated bottom directly into boiling water. The cooked noodles are then rinsed in water until they’re completely cooled down. With the water squeezed out, the noodles are looped and coiled and they are arranged in a lotus or banana leaf-lined basket in concentric circles; the noodles are ready for the market or the table."
"There are four num banh chok dishes: num banh chok samlor Khmer, num banh chok samlor kraham, num banh chok samlor kari, and num banh chok Kampot. Num banh chok samlor Khmer is noodles with green fish gravy, num banh chok samlor kraham is noodles with red fish gravy, num banh chok samlor kari is noodles with red chicken and sweet potato curry and num banh chok Kampot is noodles with crushed dried shrimp tossed with pineapple fish-sauce dressing and topped with roasted peanuts and coconut cream.
"Num banh chok samlor Khmer and num banh chok samlor kraham are served with a huge variety of raw vegetables such as banana blossom, cucumber, long beans, bean sprouts, papaya, young mango leaves, water lily stems, water hyacinth flowers, sesbania javanica flowers, some edible border plants, and countless herbs. The other two dishes require fewer adornments. Of course, these adornments also change with the season. Aside from these four dishes, num banh chok is served as an accompaniment to many other dishes as well.
"Num banh chok samlor Khmer, also known by its other name, num banh chok samlor praher, is so ubiquitous and so loved that we simply refer to it as num banh chok Khmer. In Khmer cuisine, num banh chok Khmer is in a category of its own. We simply eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a 2 a.m. snack."
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