Celebrate Pchum Ben with a local family in Phnom Penh
About the host
Phanny and her family celebrate every year one of the most important religious festivals in Cambodia: Pchum Ben. It is translated as “Ancestors Day”, but actually lasts up to 14 days and is as important as the Hungry Ghost festival. The festival marks also the end of the buddhist lent and the rainy season. Monks will now again be allowed to travel and asking in the villages for alms.
Our host Phanny will give travelers the rare opportunity to join her and her family in the festival activities.
This year the main activities are from 27.-29.9.2019.
You will join them at 8am in the morning and help preparing the food. Those dishes will later on given as offerings and donations to the monks, but also be your lunch. Once the offerings are prepared, the family will take you to the pagoda.
CHICKEN FOREST SOUR SOUP (SAMLOR MACHOUPREY SACHMIEN)
It is a kind of hot-soup which was named from a forest. It is cooked with a combination of chicken and varieties of fresh vegetables like colorful tomato, green pepper, and sweet pepper, mixed with Khmer Kroeung and tamarind. For Khmer Kroeung, she uses lemongrass stalk, Kaffir lime, Galangal, Rhizome, and garlic. To make a yellow Kroeung, she added turmeric a bit over than others to get color and flavor. Finally, the soup is added with holy basil known as M’rah prov.
FRIED SWEET GOURD (KHUO NORNAOENG)
A very fresh fried tropical vegetables mixed (gourd and sweet corn) with chicken egg will bring you an unforgettable experience of Khmer food. After cooking, she added Kampot pepper and spring onion over the fried.
GRILLED PORK RIB (CHHA-EUNG CHHUMNY CHROUK-ANG)
A common right dish for every time meals such as breakfast, lunch or dinner. She could make it special by marinating the pork ribs with Kampot pepper (a special pepper from the southwest part of coastal of Cambodia), a little salt and sugar, oyster sauce and garlic, etc. Its smell will make you hungry!
COCONUT JELLY (CHA-HUOY DOUNG)
Hot and steamy would be a good way to describe the weather in Cambodia. Therefore, the coconut jelly is a popular dessert to help you cool down the heat inside your body. Mixed gelatine powder with coconut water and let it stand for a few minutes. After that top up it with coconut milk and leave in the fridge to set.
Go to the pagoda and honor the ancestors
During Pchum Ben offerings are made in the pagoda to the ancestors. Since there is no graveyard and -stone like in christian countries, prayer will we sent up to the ancestors world. Those who are not with us anymore play still an important role in the Khmer culture. It is expected that during Pchum Ben the gates of hell will open and the ghost can come to the real world for a while. To please them, monks in the pagoda will chant day and night. The families will please the ghosts with offerings, usually food. But is is common belief that also those relatives who are not in hell will benefit from the ceremonies. The offerings will be given to the monks, as kind of intermediates to the ghosts. In rural Cambodia some people will throw rice on the floor to give it directly to the ghosts.
Meditating in the temple during Pchum Ben
Your part will be that of an observer, but you can participate as much as you can. Phanny’s daughter Thyda will teach you how to pray (you are praying to the ancestors, so even for non buddhists its ok to do it without believing in a religion). But we leave it up to you. She will also lead you to the sand stupas, which are build in the temple areas during important religious festivals like Pchum Ben. It will take around two hours at the pagoda. Traditionally women wear a white blouse when entering a temple area, men a shirt and trousers. You don’t have to dress like a local, but should wear decent clothing, covering as much skin as possible.
Having lunch with your host family
After the offerings and prayers Phanny and her family will take you back to the house where you will have lunch with the family (it’s optional to have the lunch at the pagoda, but we need to know in advance).