There are numerous festivals in Asia, and our first Battambang mid autumn (Moon Cake) festival was celebrated by a visit from our good friend Tao, his mother Patience and her partner from China. Those who have been on a tour with us to Yunnan would have met there.
The threesome traveled from Kunming to Bangkok, then took a flight to Seam Reap followed by a 2-hour taxi ride to Battambang. All that, just to spent two nights with us… (and bugger Angkor Wat!)
When they arrived, out of their suitcases popped two huge boxes spilling with moon cakes, plus copious Yunnan ham which is similar to prosciutto. We fried the ham with Yunnan’s celebrated wild mushrooms — the latter which also appeared out of their suitcases.
Battambang moon cakes are numerous in the markets, but we were so excited to have them hand delivered from China. Better yet, Yunnan moon cakes are packed full of the local ham, tasting more like a sugar glazed Smithfield Virginia country ham. One variety of the cakes was made from raw ham with rose water, a modern take on an age old tradition.
We decided to celebrate with local friends during their visit, and the dinner menu was to be a traditional Alsatian four course repast ending with the moon cakes.
About three hours before the arrival of our dinner guests, as we were preparing for the evening, a huge marquee was set up outside of our kitchen and taking up half the road. There has been a lot of these in Battambang since our arrival, hosting celebrations for weddings or funerals and they typically last three days. Loud speakers blurt out the music and the chants of the monks. All we could think of was that we would not be able to hear anyone talk during our dinner.
But to our delight, it was not marquee for the participants, rather for the caterers. Six huge woks magically appeared along with electric lights, tables, food and a huge water tank. About ten staff began to cook as Robert and I were preparing our dinner.
Our dinner party was splendid. Patience, Tao’s mother, cooked up four plates of the mushrooms with the Yunnan ham. Robert brought out a huge platter of choucroute garnie (sauerkraut) followed by a cheese course we’ve been collecting for the past month in Bangkok and Seam Reap.
All of this was accompanied to the drum of chefs and waiters cooking up a storm for the funeral celebrations being held around the corner.
Our evening meal finale was the moon cakes hand delivered from China.