Birthday kan Padaba (Mahal) Ko

After several weeks of being busy with the international women’s conference that I helped organise, I am finally free and back to my normal routine. I was relieved when the last of the participants left Phnom Penh on Nov 25, coinciding with my husband’s birthday. After sending them off, I didn’t waste time and immediately sprung into action and planned a simple dinner.

For our food, I decided to prepare my husband’s favourite. Nothing fancy, just his favourite samlor kari saramann, nom pang (local version of French baguette), and beer. In my mind, I was also debating whether I should bake or buy a birthday cake instead.

Cooking samlor kari saramann is a story in itself. It was easy to make as the recipe I used was taken from the cookbook that my husband bought for me months ago. However, selecting and preparing the ingredients for the curry paste is quite tedious. First in my to do-list was to get fresh ingredients from the market. Although I live in Tuol Sangkeo, Psah Boeungkengkang, for me, was the place to go. There, an array of fresh herbs and spices, such as lemongrass, coriander, ginger, garlic, shallots, chilli, and anise seed, greeted me. There were so many to choose from! I’m glad one ming (older woman) helped me out with my choices. Once the ingredients were selected and washed, these were pounded one after another to make a perfect curry paste. This task, I learned, required the strength of Wonder Woman to endure more than an hour of pounding in order to achieve the ideal consistency. I used a mortar and pestle made of stone, the one I ‘inherited’ from a Nepali friend who left Cambodia years ago. It’s really heavy, so you can imagine my ordeal. But, as I said, I love doing this so I went about the task merrily.

Originally, the recipe requires beef, but I substituted it with pork when I came home and found out there was no more beef in our fridge. Also, I added potatoes and string beans which are not in the original recipe just to add something filling in it.

After an hour or so of boiling and boiling… here’s the result of my labor of love…


After a hard day’s work, my husband came home and feasted on a steaming bowl of samlor kari saramann. Rich, savoury, spicy and creamy…

This dish is very popular especially at Cham (Khmer Muslim) and Buddhist weddings in Cambodia, served with either rice or nompang. Old folks, especially our landlady’s mum-in-law, told me that this dish tastes even better when served the next day.

Initially I was planning to bake a cake for dessert, but I thought that with the pounding and stirring of the kari dish, I wouldn’t have enough strength to do so. Against my better judgement, I bought a double-choco cake at Lucky’s. Bad move. It was dry and forgettable. I knew I should’ve made my own carrot cake topped with the special frosting that I successfully invented months ago. There’s always another time, my husband chirped. There goes my dear husband again… never demanding, always understanding. How lucky am I to have a husband who appreciates my efforts, especially in cooking! *lol*

Sure, the birthday dinner was nothing jaw-dropping or something, as some of you might be saying now. But hey, after being busy (especially me) and spending very little time with each other during those frantic weeks, the simple dinner was our ‘reunion of sorts’. It gave us back the missing closeness and connection making the night more memorable. It is certainly the kind of stuff we want to be included in our good times list.

Again, happy birthday, Mahal 🙂

4 thoughts on “Birthday kan Padaba (Mahal) Ko

  1. That seems so yummy, I love exotic Asian dishes cooked in thick curry paste. Kaya lang I do not know how to prepare them hehehe.

    Happy birthday to your sweet husband!!!

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