Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Great memories

With some of my Tuol Kork friends at a restaurant in Prek Leap in 2002
I am really looking forward to yet another wedding party this coming Friday when an old friend from way back, Phea, will marry his sweetheart Channa. It'll be a great opportunity to meet up with many friends from my Tuol Kork days, when my yearly visits to Cambodia always involved spending time with them at their home, usually at a party or a big meal, before gradually everyone went their separate ways. These occasions bring everyone back together again. I mention my friends in an excerpt from my book To Cambodia With Love, and the introduction to the chapter, Moveable Feasts:
Then there is my love affair with another Khmer dish, which came about in the aftermath of the passing of one of my closest friends a decade ago. His extended family, all living under the same roof in the Tuol Kork district of Phnom Penh, invited me to join them one evening, and his Aunt Vourch brought out her specialty, Khmer chicken curry (kari sach moan), made with her own secret recipe. That was it. I was hooked. I've been back to Tuol Kork many times since. There's just something uniquely special about Vourch's masterpiece, the taste and texture, the bond of true friendship that it represents. I've enjoyed similar dishes throughout Cambodia, but none come close.

In To Cambodia With Love, I also talk about the friend I lost:
As I write this I think about how different my life might have been had I not met Sok Thea. His spirit of adventure and boundless energy to uncover his country's secrets and to promote them to others was a revelation to me. I've never met anyone like him. Our best bonding session came over a decade ago as we clambered around an overgrown Beng Mealea temple along with five gun-toting soldiers when the area was still heavily mined. Thea died a year later, aged just twenty-nine, and I still miss him. No one has ever understood my love for Cambodia more than he did. His loss was Cambodia's loss. He was the one who prompted me to begin a voyage of discovery that continues to this day.
Inside the Tuol Kork home of Aunt Vourch (orange shirt) with more of my friends. Phea is on the back row with glasses.



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