Traditionally Cambodia’s rice has only been grown in the wet season, however, farming methods are changing to produce more seasonal crops. The traditional way to farm rice in Cambodia is with water buffalo pulling a plough and hand planting the rice plants behind. This is an extremely laborious task for both man and beast!
Time Honoured Traditions
In times past, Cambodians used to use the waterlogged paddy fields as a chance to farm fish in a type of aquaculture system. Today this is uncommon, but, as farming practices and education improves about the potential ecological side effects of certain fertilizers, rice farms also operating as fish farms are showing a renaissance.
Better quality fertilizers have meant that Cambodia’s rice yields have increased year on year in recent times. This can only be a good thing for a country and people who are so reliant on this essential crop.
Rice farming is something that traditionally the whole family helps with. From the ploughing and preparation of the field to the germination and planting of the rice seedlings to eventually the cropping and milling of the rice. Although farming methods are improving, many Cambodians still maintain this way of life which has been practised for generations before them.
The process of this long-established rice production is one that should be appreciated by all that eat Cambodia’s rice. The fact that almost every single grain of rice in the country is processed by hand from seed to on your plate, is an incredible one!
The Importance of Rice in Cambodia
Over two-thirds of the world’s population rely on rice as a daily part of their diet. Asia alone grows over 2000 varieties of rice which is not only used in Asian cuisine but as a source of fuel, religious ceremonies and feed for livestock. In Cambodia rice is still considered sacred by most people and has forged Cambodian culture and tradition for many centuries.
The demand for rice in Cambodia is amazingly high, shown by the fact that the country still imports more rice than it exports! Predictions show this to change in the next decade as more land in Cambodia is opened up through more investment and better road networks.
Rice can be turned into an amazing variety of products from paper to pudding and be cooked and prepared in many different ways. Rice varieties can be, white, red, brown, short, long, thick or thin! Rice grains can be processed to make noodles, oil, wine and cosmetics. The rice stalks can be used to make baskets, ropes, brushes, hats, sandals and thatched roofs and the rice bran can be processed to make fuel and fertilizer.
The Role of Rice In Cambodian Life
Rice is so essential to Cambodian life that even the Khmer language is intertwined with the value of the grain. To eat in Khmer translates as “eat rice” and the kitchen is “where rice is cooked”. Travellers to the Kingdom will revel in the abundant choices of rice on offer; boiled, sticky, steamed, fried, rice noodles, rice soup, rice popcorn, rice porridge or rice cakes! Moreover, most Cambodian people will eat rice with all 3 meals of the day.
Rice also plays an important role in Cambodian religious ceremonies and traditions. The annual Pchum Ben festival derives its name from the rice balls that Cambodian people offer to the ghosts of their dead relatives at this time. Also, many of the Buddhist prayers and practices involve the throwing of rice as a symbol of communicating with the spiritual world.