Rice Rice Baby

It is an age old story that cultures make up more words for the things that are important to them. The classic example is that Eskimos have many words for snow because they need to know what type of snow something is. Fluffy, fresh, packed, blizzard, etc. Well, here in Cambodia, I have learned just how important eating, and particularly rice, are to society.

First, let us start with eating. There are five main words for eating in Khmer depending on who is speaking and who they are speaking about/to. Those are:

ស៊ី See

  • For animals (impolite word, although it seems to be an acquired slang for university age students between close friends. Either that or cockroaches count as animals and the hostel students are talking to them.)

ញុំា Nyam

  • For someone younger, or the same age

ហូប Hope

  • For someone the same age or slightly older

ពិសា Pisa

  • For someone older than

សោយ Sowey

  • For the king and God

Just looking at the specifications with which they classify the verb “to eat,” it is clear how important food is to Khmer culture!

Now, let’s look at the ways that rice has integrated itself into society. It is important to note that rice production is one of the biggest ways that many families provide for themselves in Cambodia. Not only that, but every meal is served with rice. I could eat rice for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert if we have it! In fact, I usually do! To start with some basics, let’s look at a couple places associated with food:

ហាងបាយ Hang bai

  • Restaurant (literally “shop/store of rice”)

ផ្ទះបាយ P’teh-ah bai

  • Kitchen (literally “house/home of rice”

What about if we follow rice through its process of production?

ស្រូវ Skroh

  • Patty rice

អង្ករ Angkaw

  • Uncooked rice

ដាំ Dahm

  • Cooking rice verb

បាយ Bai

  • Cooked rice you eat

And finally, how about when you are talking about eating, or being hungry in general?

ញុំាបាយហើយ Nyam bai howee?

  • Have you eaten? (Literally: Have you eaten rice already?)

ញុំាបាយជាមួយខ្ញុំ Nyam bai chea-moi knyohm

  • Come eat with me. (Eat rice with me.)

ខ្ញុំឃ្លានបាយ Knyohm klee-en bai

  •  I am hungry. (Literally: I am hungry for rice.)
  • Note on this one. Sometimes hostel students will joke about this one and say “Klee-en mee” (I am hungry for noodles.)

Well folks, that’s all and sadly it is time to say good-bai! If you are in a particularly rice-y mood, or enjoy rice related humor, go on over and check out the post featuring An Ode to Rice on my other blog!

Keep Shining,



Word of the Week Wednesday 4/26/17


This week I have a very important word that I should have learned months ago, but have learned it this week!


Languge: Khmer
Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Chom Nai
Translation: Snack

Now, let me tell you that in the US, I am a snacker. Since coming to Cambodia, I have found that there seem to be two cultures embraced on this front. First, whenever I visit friend’s houses out in the provinces and in villages, snacking is definitely a thing. There is always some snack or dessert or fruit around to munch on. This usually means I can eat more because it is over a whole day and not only three meals. The second snack culture is what I have found in the city. Snacking is not as much of a thing here. Sure, we have fruit every once in a while, but it seems that just having a little snack is not as much of a habit as in the village. Part of me wonders if the busier lifestyle of the city ignore some of the possibilities like snacking. Another factor could be that I live with hostel students and it is rare to have I am eating a snack allows me to explain why it may seem like I don’t eat a lot at one time. I am better with smaller snacks all day. Still, no matter how many snacks I may want to eat, nothing can replace sharing dinner with my friends at the hostel around a big pot of rice.

Keep Shining,

Word of the Week Wednesday 11/30/16

Wassup word lovers?

This week I was cooking in the hostel kitchen when an old friend came to visit. She asked in English if I was cooking, so I wanted to show her some of the little Khmer I had learned in her absence. My response was: “Jah, Keenohm slaw” Yes, I cook. She looked at me and corrected my silly mistake. “No, Ashley, you only use slaw for soup, there is a different way to say you cook other things. You are frying, that is different.” Feeling quite silly for not knowing that after two weeks of using the word, I had to know how to say it correctly. So, let’s find out, shall we?

Language: Khmer

Part of Speech: Verb

Pronunciation: Twuhr Mah Hohp

Definition: to cook food (not soup)

This word literally takes the word “to do/make” and the word “food” and squishes them together for the fixed phrase “to cook,” AKA: “to make food.” What an informational lesson for me this week as I continue to love and learn this language.

Well, here’s to Mah Hohp-ing you have a good week!

Keep Shining,


P.s. the Google translate version spells this word wrong, according to my lovely friends here! This is the correct way! 🙂