Where to eat Khmer food this weekend

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Pchum Ben ceremony at Watt Khmer Metta
  • Pchum Ben ceremony at Watt Khmer Metta

I've pointed out before that there are precious few opportunities in Chicago for non-Cambodians (without Cambodian friends or family) to try Khmer food, which can be described as somewhat similar to Thai but noticeably subtler in terms of the four S's—spicy-sweet-sour-salty. It's no ten-ton truck, but it draws on Indian, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, and French influences too and it's damn good stuff. If you've never partaken, this Saturday there are a couple opportunities at the Cambodian American Heritage Museum in Albany Park.

Beginning at 9 AM, Buddhist monks will conduct a Moha Bhokal ceremony remembering those who died in the Killing Fields, during which food and cash are offered to the chanting monks before everyone sits down to eat. All are welcome, but as with the community's annual Pchum Ben observance you should bring a gift.

Later that afternoon, tour group facilitator Travel Blend is presenting Meandering the Mekong: A Culinary Journey to Cambodia, featuring a tour of the museum, a slide show, cooking demonstration, and buffet dinner. The company's Loneth Soares tells me the menu will feature beef salad (pleer saik gho), chicken lemon grass (cha khreung saik moan), stir fried vegetables (cha pbales), banana in coconut cream and tapioca for dessert, and a basil seed drink

It's at 2831 W. Lawrence, and tickets are $40. Call 773-620-2332 for more info.

And speaking of Pchum Ben, or Cambodian Ancestor's Day, the city's two Khmer Buddhist temples usually celebrate it at Truman College next Saturday. I'll share the details once I get them. Meantime, here's a taste of what you might expect.

UPDATE: I'm told the Cambodian Buddhist Association will be celebrating Pchum Ben on Saturday, October 1, from 8 am to 3 pm at Truman College. It's a great event.

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