Thursday, September 16, 2010

How we celebrate a new office

The organization I am working for recently opened a new service office in Kandal province. To inaugurate the place some of the staff and most of the management headed over in the large trucks and SUVs that are strangely popular among the Khmer riche.

When we arrived they busted out coolers and bags from the truck and started putting it all out on plates and setting up the Buddhist altar that is found in just about every office, restaurant and home in Cambodia. Everyone was very busy but someone managed to throw some incense into my hands and push me towards the altar to pray awkwardly. This may have been in large part due to my rumbling stomach--the five feet in from the altar was covered in various foodstuffs that I was having a hard time ignoring.

I definitely suffered for a while thinking all of this food was getting wasted on the gods and spirits of the place (and I was told that the extra table set up outside was for the angel) . But it turns out that Buddhism is a very sensible religion in that once all the praying and incense burning was done, we got to bring it all back to the office to share with the staff for lunch.

Our celebratory lunch. I sat next to the COO who kept adding spoonfuls of crab and other goodies to my plate. The crab had a variety of "sauces" to go with it. The ubiquitous fish sauce with chilis and another nice one of green beans cut very small, fish sauce and very hot chilis.

Twice the chicken we get in the west.

Cakes with coconut milk and a little bit of incense ash.

One of my best meals so far in Cambodia, both for the camaraderie and the food. Thanks, angels!


  1. Lina, everything looks very fresh and tasty! I'm sure it was very much enjoyed by all.

  2. So they are Buddhist but not vegetarian. Do they use seitan or tofu at all?

  3. After careful observation, I have concluded that most of my co-workers survive on mostly rice. So this meal was a big deal! Everyone was very excited.

    I think only the monks are vegetarians. Same as in most Buddhist countries, actually. I haven't seen tofu in any meals here.

  4. The crabs and shrimp look delicious, and the chicken... well, very serene. ;)