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A Brief Scholarly History on and of the Complexly Simple Cuisines of Cambodia - Part 2 of 4

Thursday, November 15, 2018 10:27 PM

Proper Eating Etiquette and Utensils Used in Khmer Culture

By Evan Chorm (An American-reared boy having mixed Cambodian ancestry and heritage.)


Figure 8: KHMER FINGER FOODS.

Like certain Western foods such as hors’doeuvre as well as burgers and fries, eating with your hands is the original eating etiquette of the Khmers for over millennia dating back to antiquity (Fig. 8). However, with the influx of Chinese peoples migrating into Cambodia in recent centuries, specifically during the 13th century, and more so during the 19th century which was galvanized by the French during the period in which Cambodia was then a French protectorate, the Khmers also incorporated eating with a spoon and fork as well as chopsticks (Fig. 9 & 10). Eating with a spoon and fork is the main to second form of eating etiquette for the Khmers when it comes to rice- and/or soup-based dishes (Fig. 9). No knives are needed if a majority of their food is already chopped and/or sliced into small bite-size pieces! And like Westerners who would make attempts to eat with chopsticks as a form of respect towards East Asian immigrants residing in Western countries as well as their ancestral culture, the Khmers, too, use chopsticks as a form of respect towards the recent influx of Chinese migrants and immigrants into their country; hence why Khmers use chopsticks only with noodle dishes (which is a Chinese invention as well as introduction) (Fig. 10).(4) Historically and in general however, using and eating with chopsticks is not the norm nor the common eating etiquette of the Khmers. To eat all Khmer food with chopsticks would be perceived by the Khmers as not only weird, but not “the”, or rather, not “their” norm--it would be as weird as if a non-Western and/or non-Asian (specifically non-East Asian) person were to eat any and/or all types of Western food with chopsticks. After all, like Cambodia and its native peoples, many Western countries also have Chinese immigrants and/or American-born of Chinese descent residing in their countries in which they wish to welcome and respect as well.


Figure 9: KHMER RICE- AND/OR SOUP-BASED DISHES WITH THE USE OF A FORK AND SPOON AS UTENSILS.


Figure 10: KHMER NOODLE DISHES WITH THE USE OF CHOPSTICKS AS UTENSILS..

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(4) Jennifer Kikoler, "13 Cambodian Dishes You Should Know,” SeriousEats.com, (accessed August 2018).