Num Grawlaan (Bamboo Tube Cakes)

Conor Wall

Price: 1,000 to 3,000 riel each, depending on size.

Ingredients: Bamboo tube cakes are a quintessentially rural Khmer treat, but can still be found on sale on city streets. There are no additives, fancy cooking appliances or environmentally-damaging packaging here. Instead the ingredients, method of preparation and even the presentation are 100 percent natural. As a result ‘num grawlaan’ ooze old-school Khmer charm. First, bamboo stalks are cut into ruler length sections, so that one end is blocked by the knuckle of the bamboo and the other end is open. Rice grains, soya beans, coconut shavings, salt and sugar are mixed together and stuffed inside the hollow stalks. Water is added before the bamboo is sealed with folded leaves. Once a group of stalks has been prepared, they are stuck about two inches into the ground, knuckle end first. A fire is then made around the protruding bamboo stalks and maintained for about three hours until the cake is cooked.

Served: Once cooked, the exterior of the bamboo is charred and burned. It is then carefully peeled off, exposing the more aesthetic, brown-coloured stalk interior. The cakes are then ready to be sold.

Taste: Some brute force is needed to access the ‘num grawlaan’. First the dried banana leaves, which seal one end, are removed. Next the bark has to be pulled back hard until it tears. Section by section, rip by rip, the bamboo can be pulled back unveiling the inner ingredients. The cake itself looks just like boiled rice with scatterings of soya beans. The texture is soft and somewhat dry. The cake tastes like slightly sweetened rice with an occasional soya bean kick. All in all, the final product is a little bland. The process of eating it, however, definitely isn’t. (3/5)

Where to get it: Available from a variety of friendly sellers walking the city streets with beautiful baskets expertly balanced atop of beautiful heads.

Other Info: Usually available all day.