By : Wathna Sao
Have you ever tasted something called Kralan ( bamboo sticky rice )? It is one of the famous types of rice cakes made in many provinces of Cambodia. In the commune of Kchah, Sout Nikom district and Siem Reap province, you’ll see rows and rows of Kralan shops along the national road 6.
Ms. Lorm La is 32 years old and she has been selling bamboo sticky rice for about 8 years. She makes 100 of these rice cakes every day. First, she immerses the glutinous rice grain in water overnight to let the rice become soft. Then she wakes up at 2 o’clock every morning just to mix the ingredients and get it ready to cook. She drains the water from the rice grain and mixes the rice with a small amount of ripe coconut meat, red beans, a little bit of sugar and most importantly, coconut milk. Instead of using water to cook rice, she uses coconut milk because it gives a better taste to the rice. Afterwards, the mixture is put in bamboos of different sizes along with a lid made of rice straw to keep the Kralan moist after it is cooked. It takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes to cook Kralan on the burning fire having one horizon pole to support it from falling. Ms. Lorm La has to sit nearby to turn the bamboo before it is too cooked. Next, she has to remove the burnt parts of the bamboo to make it look nicer and easier to peel the bamboo when it’s ready to eat. After all, we can keep the bamboo sticky rice with its delicious taste for two days.
Ms. Lorm La learned how to make bamboo sticky rice from her mother who sold it for many years in the past. The recipe has been passed from generation to generation until now. Ms. Lorm La doesn’t have any problems with selling her bamboo sticky rice, but she does have problems with cooking it. Her hands get burned while cooking Kralan on fire and she gets blisters when removing the bamboo skin. She buys the ingredients from her neighbors in the village and the bamboo from Kampong Thom province.
During big holidays or festivals, she can sell up to 300 pieces of Kralan and she has both Khmer and foreigner customers. If any of the bamboo sticky rice is leftover from the day, she will take it around villages and trade it for rice grain. She spends her spare time sewing some pictures by following specific patterns for each color.
This bamboo sticky rice seller has three children and they all go to school. “I wish my children do well in their learning,” Ms. Lorm La said. “So they don’t have to do this tiring job everyday like me.”