Happy Cambodian New Year!

sur sdei chhnam thmei! សួស្ដីឆ្នាំថ្មីនៅប្រទេសកម្ពុជា – Happy Cambodian New Year! Wait, didn’t the New Year already pass? – In America it has, but for the Motherland, April 13 marks the end of the harvest season and a time to prepare for the next rainy season in May. Since the rainy season does not begin until late May, farmers have a break from their hard work of rice planting and harvesting. April is the only month they have before summer/rainy season begins, which means for shorter amounts of time being able to work longer in the fields.

How do we celebrate Cambodian New Year? Why, the same way everyone else does, with festivities and food! Usually held at a temple, playing traditional games and eating a smorgasbord of Traditional Khmer food: Red or Green Curry, Egg rolls, Bei Moan (Steamed Chicken), Trey Chean Jurn (Fried Fish with Ginger), Sach Ko Ang Jaka(Grilled lemongrass beef skewers), Steamed sticky rice & pork or plantains wrapped in Banana Leaves, Babar (Rice Porridge with fixins), Nom Lort (Pandan flavored jello in sugary coconut sauce), Rice Mung Bean ball dessert, Banana tapioca pudding, and many more. Small portions of these offerings are sacrificed to temples, pagodas, and in-home shrines, for our ancestors to ‘eat’ and give us well wishes for our futures. Some even say that the food does get eaten by our spirit ancestors, fresh fruit will have all juice sucked out of them, other dishes have no flavor after the whole celebration is over. Although in America we celebrate Khmer New Years mainly just in one day, the motherland celebrates over a period of 3-days…imagine how amazing it is to be part of this joyous time and to try all of that rich traditional food! I can’t wait to visit one day.

I sadly, did not make it to the local Austin Khmer New Year celebrations at the local temple this year. Years ago when I was a little tween (pre-teenager), my parents had always brought me to temple or a family friends’ home to practice traditional Khmer dance. I felt truly blessed to learn more about my culture, and to keep it alive. Khmer dance movements were my bare feet stepping on the ground, bodily movements, and feeling the string’s and drum’s vibrations through my soul. My favorite dances were the Robam Chun Por (Blessing Dance) & Robam Kuos Angrae. One New Years, I had to perform both dances back to back, and it was exciting for me – Felt like a star in wardrobe change!

I love my culture and all that it has taught me and shaped me as a human being. In America, it sometimes is difficult to pay full respects to your culture, and spending time with your family paying reverence to your ancestors – Time is spent working to live, school, and of course resting. Learning firsthand being a born and raised Texan, I have not forgotten where I’m from and will continue to keep it in my little family. Although I have not mastered learning all of traditional Khmer dishes, I’ve conquered many on my own already. Check out my photos below, along with a list of other sites you may read more about Cambodia and Khmer food recipes.


Khmer shrimp spring rolls with Cha Mee (Stir fried egg noodles), homemade peanut/fish sauce for dipping


Khmer Rice Porridge with Fried chicken skin, chives, and garlic


Baked Catfish with Stirfried Ginger, onions, tomato, and garlic, one of my favorite dishes with rice + the next item below


Green Papaya Salad with roasted crushed peanuts and basil leaves. I use the same ingredients in a Green Mango Salad as well.


Khmer Eggrolls with vermicelli noodles, carrots, onion, garlic, shrimp or pork, and taro or yucca root inside. One of my favorite dishes as well, but also a very time consuming meal to plan!


Khmer Kaw, typically made with Pork Belly and boiled eggs, and bamboo shoot. I made this one with Chicken and boiled eggs…still delicious!

A clip of the ‘Blessing Dance’, the year I performed this dance, we all had different vibrant silk attire on. Stretching and moving in the clothes is not as easy as it looks. Try bending your fingers the way these ladies do too!

This was a fun dance for me. Both dances I’ve performed tell a story. Watch the videos first and then research what they mean.
Got my ankles snapped on a few times during this practice, but it was all worth it! Love my people and culture.


6 responses to “Happy Cambodian New Year!

  1. soursdey chnam tmey, elaine! =D
    i really enjoyed this post… the food looks so delicious. and the dance, i am still teaching robam kuos angrae to this day. if you’d like i’ll send you a link of my current students. =)

    • Same to you, Bhong!! I miss doing Khmer dances for New Years, and you as our teacher! Sounds weird coming from a 25 yr old, but it is so true. I hope to learn to master more and more Khmer recipes – When I was younger, I didn’t take a liking to it as much as I do now. You can definitely send me a link of your pupils! Take care! Come back to Austin, we can start bringing the dances back to the New Year celebrations!

  2. Hi Elaine! I’m kind of new to the area and would love to get some info on the Cambodian New Years Party in Austin. Do you know anything about it? I currently live in San Antonio and have only met a handful of Cambodian people (my age at least).

    • Hi there! So sorry for the late response! As far as Austin’s Khmer New Year Celebrations, typically is just one night. Now there are two locations where they happen, cheaper tickets for a more casual buffet style eating (you do pay for plates, but inexpensive), then there is one held at a restaurant with a prix-fixe menu that has more expensive tickets. You should definitely come down to Austin for Khmer New Year next year! I really want to get back into performing during the new years, so I am working on seeing how I can incorporate this. We can stay in touch!

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