Ministries seeking heritage status for Num Banh Chok

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Num Banh Chok has been the most popular breakfast or afternoon snack among Cambodians for many generations. Heng Chivoan

The ministries of Tourism and Culture and Fine Arts are seeking to have Num Banh Chok, a popular Cambodian rice noodle, and some other traditional desserts registered as Unesco’s World Intangible Heritage.

Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak said specialists from the two ministries are collecting evidence and conducting research into the history and important ingredients of Num Banh Chok, which are to be used as references in its registration request to Unesco.

Sopheak said the decision was inspired by the so-called Khmer noodle movement for national solidarity and unity, which was observed throughout the Kingdom on June 9 at the behest of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“Apart from being tasty, Num Banh Chok represents our wonderful tradition and culture. It also demonstrates solidarity between government officials and ordinary Cambodians from all walks of life.

“Therefore, it is necessary to prepare documents in our request to Unesco to enlist Num Banh Chok in the world’s intangible heritage list,” he said.

During the first international press conference on Cambodian food tourism in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, Unesco Representative to Cambodia Sardar Umar Alam and Minister of Tourism Thong Khon also highlighted plans to enlist Num Banh Chok as world intangible heritage.

Sopheak said besides Num Banh Chok, the ministries planned to request Unesco to inscribe in its list five other Cambodian desserts including Num Ansom Chrook (sticky rice cake with pork wrapped in banana leave), Num Chak Kachan (multi-layered steamed cake), Num Slek Sros (bean cake), Num Phlae Ai (glutinous rice flour with palm sugar), and Sang Khaya (custard sticky rice).

Cambodian traditional soups including samlar korko, sour soup, samlar proheu, and amok will also be included in the request.

Traditionally made by hand in heavy stone mills from fermented rice, Num Banh Chok has been the most popular breakfast or afternoon snack among Cambodians for many generations.

Topped with cool fish gravy and crisp raw vegetables including cucumbers, banana blossom, and water lily stems and fresh herbs, the noodle is traditionally served with fish-based (Prahok) yellow curry gravy made from lemongrass, turmeric root and kaffir lime.

It is also the main feast during traditional Dalean ceremony, which is widely celebrated in the countryside immediately after the rice harvesting season.