Photo courtesy of Angela Hong
LA River School

Immigration & Ngorn Por

My grandmother, Ngorn Por, has a love for food; not just the final product, but how it’s made step by step. She learned how to cook from her mother way back in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Cooking with my grandmother is something I enjoy doing, and as I tell my grandmother’s story, I will let you in on a family recipe called Nom Onsorm Jake, that was passed down generations.

My grandma now resides in the United States after she escaped from the Cambodian Rouge that lasted from March 1967 to April 1975. My grandma felt that the violence in Cambodia was hostile and was no place to raise a child. Till this day, my grandma still tries to incorporate traditional Cambodian foods in my life, and in a way pass it down to the next generation.

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing my grandmother, and asked her a few questions about her life in the United States and what roots she established.

Ingredients needed to make Nom Onsorm Jake:

1 cup rice flour

½ cup warm water

White sugar

Coconut milk

Jackfruit (optional)

Step 1:  In a large bowl pour one cup of rice flour, slowly add warm water while kneeing the dough. Add a little at a time, remember the consistency should not be watery.

As a young girl, my grandma described to me, in vivid details, the struggles my great grandma underwent, and how she always wondered if there would be food on the table. My grandma struggled financially, no doubt. And as my grandma got older, she knew that the reason she left was being she did not want to struggle in the way my great grandma did. One of the reasons why she left Cambodia, was for financial reasons.

Step 2: Bring a pot to boil. While that is boiling bring out a large bowl, add cold water. If you are able to put ice and water that is even better. Drop the little balls into the water. When the dough balls are cooked they will rise to the top. Carefully take out the dough balls with a stainer and add to the ice bowl immediately. Take dough balls out and set aside.

I asked my grandma if she made the right decision, and what she told me surprised me; She said “A part of me says I did, but another says I chose an easy way out.” She further explained how she could of been more aware and prepared herself for life. She saw a change to escape reality and so she took it with no hesitation.

Step 3: Next grab a pot and pour your coconut milk into the pot. Add sugar as you go along, depending on how sweet you like your desserts. While that is brewing, open your can with jackfruit and chop the fruit into bite size pieces. Add to coconut milk, turn off the fire and allow to cool down. After 10 minutes add dough balls to the coconut milk. Serve cold or hot depending on preference.

I asked my grandma if she felt like she made a mark on the world, and she replied with “Yes, you are my granddaughter. I am able to pass down my legacy and lessons I’ve learned to you. And when you have kids of your own, you’ll do the same.”

It is not every day that I see my grandma, but when I do I try to learn as much as I possibly can. She has impacted my life in ways I cannot explain. Without her I would not exist in this world, and with that I will be forever grateful. She has furthermore taught me about life, and especially about traditional Cambodian foods. I hope that when you are making this dessert, you will have a sense of how important my Cambodian heritage is to my grandma and I.