This week in Omnivorous, I wrote about Cambodian Ancestor’s Day, or Pchum Ben, which is celebrated this weekend at Truman College by the city’s two Khmer Buddhist temples. The festival culminates for each in a pair of public feasts of home-cooked food prepared as offerings to the laity’s dead ancestors.
A few weeks ago I attended a similar ceremony, much smaller in scale, at Uptown’s Buddhist Watt Khmer Metta. The woman in the video, Saroeun, is preparing an incredible seafood salad. The Cambodian Association of Illinois’ Kathy Reun narrates, and I salivate. This was a rare opportunity to sample a large variety of dishes in this ancient, subtle cuisine, with Indian, Chinese, Thai, and even Portuguese, Spanish, and French influences. I’ve also attached a bunch of photos of some of the many dishes that were offered.
From what I’m told the two Pchum Ben ceremonies this weekend will dwarf the one I attended, as Cambodians from all over the region will come to make offerings for their own dead. The public is welcome to participate (details in the column).