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Khmer Food Terms and Etymologies

Monday, December 10, 2018 6:19 PM

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

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

1. Indian-influenced Khmer food word etymology:

  • Curry is pronounced how it is spelled in both Indian and Khmer.


2. Chinese-influenced Khmer food word etymology:

  • Stir-Fry in Chinese is termed and pronounced as “Chao”, and Khmer’s adoption of this type of food, cooking method, as well as term is pronounced as “Cha” in Khmer.
  • Rice Noodles in Teochew Chinese language is termed and pronounced as “Gue-Diao”, and Khmer’s adoption of this Chinese food and term is pronounced in Khmer as “Gah-tiew”.
  • Mian/Mien Wheat Noodles in Cantonese Chinese language is termed and pronounced as “Min”, and Khmer’s adoption of this Chinese food and term is pronounced in Khmer as “Mi”.
  • Mi Cahtahng Noodles is a type of flat thick rice noodle that is translated in Khmer as “Cantonese Noodles”. “Cahtang” meaning “Cantonese” in Khmer.


3. Thai-influenced Khmer food word etymology:

  • Samlor Tom Yum Soup is a type of spicy hot and sour Thai soup that is cooked usually with shrimp. It is translated in Khmer as “Tom Yum Soup” crediting its Thai word and origin.


4. Vietnamese-influenced Khmer food word etymology:

  • Vermicelli Rice Noodles woven into bundles in both Vietnamese and Khmer is pronounced and termed as “Bánh hỏ”.
  • Samlor Machu Yuen Soup is translated in Khmer as “Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Soup”. “Yuen” meaning Vietnamese in Khmer.
  • French-influenced Vietnamese Crêpes in Vietnamese is termed and pronounced as Bánh Xèo, and Khmer’s adoption of this French-influenced Vietnamese food and term is pronounced as “Bahn Chow” in Khmer.
  • French-influenced Vietnamese Cubed steaks in Vietnamese is termed and pronounced as Bu Loc Lac and Khmer’s adoption of this French-influenced Vietnamese food and term is pronounced as “Loh-Lah” in Khmer.


5. Portuguese, Spaniard, and French-influenced Khmer food word etymology: 

  • Bread is termed and pronounced in French as Pan, and Khmer’s adoption of this French food and term is pronounced in Khmer as “Noom Pahng”.
  • Ground meat that is made into paste, pie, and/or loaf is pronounced and termed as Pâté in both French and Khmer.
  • Beef steak is pronounced and termed as Bistec in both French, Spanish, and Khmer.
  • Beer in both French and Khmer is pronounced and termed as “Bière”.
  • Butter in both French and Khmer is pronounced and termed as “Beurre”.
  • Apple in both French and Khmer is pronounced and termed as “Pomme”.
  • Café, French for “coffee”, is pronounced and termed how it is spelled in both French and Khmer. Sometimes pronounced, “Cah-que” in Khmer.
  • Carrots in both French and Khmer is pronounced and termed as “Carotte”.
  • Chili Peppers in Portuguese is pronounced and termed as Pimenta, and the Khmer’s adoption of this western plant and term is pronounced as “Metay” in Khmer.
  • Chocolate in French is pronounced and termed as Chocolat, and Khmer’s adoption of this western plant and term is pronounced as “Soh-colah”.
  • Pineapples in French is pronounced and termed as Ananas, and the Khmer’s adoption of this western fruit and term is pronounced as “Manauh”.
  • Daumlohng Bahrang is translated in Khmer as “French Potatoes” in regards to potatoes and/or French Fries. “Bahrang” meaning “French” in Khmer.
  • Ktum Bahrang is translated in Khmer as “French Onions” in regards to onions. “Bahrang” meaning “French” in Khmer.
  • Ice Cream or rather the word “cream” in French is crème, and Khmer’s adoption of this western dessert and term is pronounced in Khmer as “cah-rame”.