Tag: Noodles

Group Writing: How to Prepare Kampot Noodles

 

Did you know that noodles originated in Cambodia? Well, according to the Khmer legend of Dhmen Jay, noodles were introduced to China around the start of the Common Era. If you’ve read my previous post on noodles, you’d know that num banh chok is a fermented rice noodles. Making num banh chok is very laborious, as you can probably tell from that post.

I’m not certain of the age and provenance of num banh chok, but my aunt’s third-grade teacher’s family claimed to have been making Khmer noodles for more than a thousand years. And there are many villages all over Cambodia that have claimed the same. There are a few areas in Kampong Thom and Kratié provinces that have been making num banh chok for more than two millennia.

The World’s First Noodles

 

Noodles originated in Cambodia, or so says the legend of Dhmen Jay, a young man who lived at the start of the Common Era in Nokor Phnom (the first unified Khmer kingdom). Dhmen Jay was born to a couple of no particular power or wealth. As a young boy, he was tricked by a millionaire neighbor and promised to get even. Shortly after, Dhmen Jay easily outsmarted the millionaire, who then proceeded to hoist him on the king. Soon, he was tricking and ridiculing bureaucrats left and right, winning contests of wit and outsmarted the entire court. He even mocked and outsmarted a bunch of wily Chinese emissaries sent by the Chinese emperor.

As his exploits continued to grow, he caused disarray and chaos at the court. So he was banned to the provinces, where he tricked the locals and the executioners, who were supposed to end his exploits. The Chinese came back thinking he had died. Dhmen Jay eventually saved Cambodia from China by answering their riddles.

As Dhmen Jay came back so did the chaos at the court. The king finally exiled him to neighboring China, out of everyone’s way. In China, he made his living by making and selling Khmer noodles. He was very successful and words reached the palace. The emperor sent for him. Showing the emperor how to eat, with head upturned and mouth opened, Dhmen Jay managed to see the emperor’s face and exclaimed that the emperor looked like a dog while the Khmer king had a face that looked like the full moon. He was promptly tossed in jail. Using his wit, Dhmen Jay managed to get himself out of jail. Eventually, the emperor sent him back to Cambodia with much wealth. And so the legend goes that Dhmen Jay introduced noodles to China.