Nom Kom: A Simple Cake

 

Nom Kom is a very old, very traditional Khmer cake wrapped in banana leaves in a pyramid shape. It is a simple cake, made with glutinous rice flour and has coconut, palm sugar, and black sesame seed filling. All the ingredients you can easily find in your local supermarket. While banana leaves are available at the frozen aisle of Asian markets, fresh leaves can sometimes be found at Latin markets as well. Nom Kom is one of several traditional cakes my grandmother likes to serve at our family’s various religious ceremonies throughout the years.

It is a simple cake, as stated above, but nom kom also bears a religious connotation as well. It represents the yoni (vulva, womb), a personification of the divine feminine creative power, the mark of Mother Shakti. In Hinduism, the yoni is the counterpart to the linga, the symbol of Lord Shiva. So of course, num kom has its counterpart, num ansom. At engagement and wedding ceremonies, num kom and num ansom are always presented together to symbolize the union of the linga and the yoni, the representation of the eternal process of creation and regeneration, the union of male and female principles. In Khmer, that union is called mea ba (mother, father).

Now, let’s talk about the ingredients, five including salt. Freshly grated coconut is always fantastic, but frozen ones are perfectly fine to use. Dried, desiccated coconut is another good option, but you do need to reconstitute with a bit of coconut milk so that it’d be easier to cook. If using fresh banana leaves, they need to be hung out in the sun for about a day so that they won’t crack or break when you fold and wrap them.

Num Kom
16 oz. grated coconut
8 oz. palm sugar
1 oz. black sesame seeds, roasted
A generous pinch of salt
3 cups glutinous rice flour
1 ½ cups warm water
Banana leaves for wrapping
Flavorless oil for greasing

Prepare the filling: heat pan over low heat. Add palm sugar and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Add the grated coconut and salt. Simmer until the coconut becomes sticky and has absorbed all the sugar. Remove from heat, sprinkle with sesame seeds and allow to cool down. Make small balls of the mixture, about 1 tbsp. size. You’ll get about 24 to 27 balls.

Make the dough: place the flour in a mixing bowl and add warm water and mix until it resembles smooth and workable dough, that is not too wet and can hold its shape. If it crumbles, it’s too dry, just add a bit more water. If it’s too soft, add a bit of flour. Cover the dough with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.

Prepare the banana leaves: cut the leaves into a round shape of 9 inch diameter. Grease the leaves with oil. And bring a big pot of water to a boil.

To assemble the cakes: take a piece of dough, about 1 tbsp. and roll it into a ball. Place each ball of dough on the palm of your hand and lightly flatten the ball. Place the filling in the center and bring the edges of the dough up over the filling and seal the ball by pinching the sides together. Roll into a ball. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

To wrap the cakes: fold the prepared leaf almost in half, leave 1/2 centimeter. Fold the leaf in half again, and you’ll have two pockets. Place the dough in the one pocket away from you. Fold down the side closer to your thumbs to cover the dough. Fold down the left and right sides and finish with the last fold. Steam the cakes for 20 minutes.

Here are some picture demonstration:

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    It sounds delicious, LC. And I love hearing the traditions that go with it. Thanks!

    • #1
  2. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing this and I just might try it the next time I entertain. Which I hope will not be too much longer.

    • #2
  3. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    @lidenscheng is one of the best reasons to be a Ricochet member.

    • #3
  4. LC Member
    LC
    @LidensCheng

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    @ lidenscheng is one of the best reasons to be a Ricochet member.

    Aw thanks! 

    • #4
  5. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    This tasty post is part of our Group Writing Series under the February 2021 Group Writing Theme: “Chef’s Surprise.” Stop by soon, our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits.

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #5
  6. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    At the risk of sounding culturally insensitive, food that is designed to be representative of the human vulva does not sound appealing. I’ll pass.

    • #6
  7. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Nom Kom.  Nom Nom! Thanks for the recipe. I will try this.

    • #7
  8. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Can I eat this while watching The Hallmark Channel? Rom Com Nom Kom Nom Noms?

    • #8
  9. LC Member
    LC
    @LidensCheng

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Can I eat this while watching The Hallmark Channel? Rom Com Nom Kom Nom Noms?

    You sure can!

    • #9