In Cambodia, Khmer New Year is one of our greatest national holidays. It is three to four days of festivities, so, therefore, cooking is a large part of our whole morning routine. I remember my mother cutting and prepping everything overnight and waking up earlier than the birds (at 4 am) to start making all the dishes she wants to serve at the local wat (temple) to appease the spirits of our ancestors. And the one thing that took a really long time to make was, one of my favourite Cambodian dessert, Num Ansom Chek and Num Ansom Chrouk (pork version). Not because it was difficult to make, or that it had a large number of ingredients, it’s because I made so many of it, we could have served the whole town with it. Trust me, I am definitely not exaggerating. Ask any other Cambodians you know. But the great thing about Num Ansom Chek is that the ingredients are so simple, yet so healthy: baby bananas, glutinous/sweet rice, coconut milk, actual coconuts, red beans, palm sugar and salt.
As I mentioned, this is a very healthy Cambodian dessert, so the word “dessert” is relative –those expecting anything in the realm of chocolate or Chinese moon cakes, will surely be disappointed. It is of a more mellow, delicate flavour, and soft texture. The only crunch you will taste in it would be the texture of the red beans, but the flavour of the sweet banana, the little hint of salt, and the aromatic scent of the banana leaves sync so well, that its such an exceptional experience.
In this version of Num Ansom Chet, I am adding jackfruit into the mixture to give it a more sweet, less delicate taste. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed!
- 1 cup of Coconut Milk
- 6 cups of Sweet/Glutinous Rice
- palm sugar
- Baby Bananas
- 1 can of Jackfruit or fresh ones
- 1 cup of Black Bean
- 3-4 cups water
- 1 package of Banana Leaves
- Strings for tying
Soak 1 cup of Black Bean in water for no less than 6 hours or overnight. Six hours later, or the next day (whichever you decide), remove the water from the black beans and place the beans into a small pot. Add three to four cups of water, and a pinch of salt. Cook for 15 minutes. After the black bean has soften, drain out the water, rinse and set aside.
Soak 5 cups of glutinous/sweet rice in water for at least six hours, or leave overnight. After 5 hours, drain out the water, and add in 1 teaspoon of salt to the rice. Mix well, and set aside.
In a pot, add in 1 cup of Coconut Milk, and stir under medium heat for about 3 minutes or until fragrant. Add in the glutinous/sweet rice, 2 teaspoon of palm sugar, the black beans and shaved coconuts. Mix for about 5 minutes, and remove from heat. Set aside to let it cool.
Wash, wipe and cut off the top and bottom edges of the Banana Leaves and set aside. Halve the bananas vertically, sprinkle with some salt, and set it aside.
Layout 1 large piece of banana leave (about 13 inches wide) on the bottom, and place a smaller piece on top. Place a small portion of the rice mixture and spread it vertically. Make space in the middle and place a piece of banana in the middle, and add some jack fruit on the sides of the banana. Cover with some more glutinous rice mixture.
Fold the banana leave in half and start packing the mixture into a tubular shape and roll it. Bend the leaf on one side, and close it. Turn it so the open side is up, and press the rice and banana tighter inside but without collapsing the shape or breaking the banana leave wall. Fold it with a dent in the middle, to give it a nice pointed but square shape. This is very important for the perfect shape of num ansom. Repeat the same fold on the other end, and tie it with a long piece of string.
Fill a steamer with enough water and place the steaming bowl. The steaming bowl should be covered with banana leaves. Place the prepared num anksom, and top it with more banana leaves. Close the lid of the steamer and steam for 30 - 45 minutes.