Cambodian Food Festival

The Cambodian festival will offer such desserts as sweet rice, made of palm sugar, coconut milk and sesame seeds.

Richmond will get to experience a new festival this Saturday: the first Cambodian Food Festival.

Amanda Prak, one of the organizers, noticed the popularity of festivals like the Greek Festival and Lebanese Food Festival in Richmond.

“We need to have our own festival to show who we are,” Prak said. “We have been through a lot, but many people don’t know about Cambodia.”

A survivor of the Cambodian genocide of the mid- to late 1970s, Prak fled the Khmer Rouge with her family when she was 10, survived a labor camp, and eventually landed in Richmond in 1981.

Now in her late 40s, Prak has spent the past decade running a nonprofit called 100 Pounds of Hope, which has helped build a school in Cambodia and start a clean water project. The nonprofit was named after a 100-pound sack of rice which can feed a family of four for a month for $18.

“Now it’s time to reach out to the local community with a festival,” Prak said.

The first Cambodian Food Festival will be held Saturday at the Khmer Samacky Monastery in eastern Henrico County.

The outdoor festival will have traditional Cambodian dishes for sale, such as fresh spring rolls, fried egg rolls, papaya salad, chicken curry made with coconut milk and a red paste, and beef on a stick seasoned with lemongrass and spices.

There will also be plenty of Cambodian desserts, such as fried bananas with ice cream and sweet rice, which is a concoction of palm sugar, coconut milk and sesame seeds.

Cambodian culture will be on display with traditional Cambodian music, wedding costumes and clothing, and cooking demonstrations.

Prak said the Cambodian community in the Richmond area includes about 6,000 families.

Right now, the monastery is a small house located on 28 acres in Henrico where the Cambodian community gathers to worship.

Festival organizers are hoping to raise money to build a Buddhist temple and a Cambodian Culture Center on the land.

“This is the perfect place to have a center where we can share our story and teach our young about Cambodian history,” Prak said. “The Khmer Rouge broke our families and took away our culture. This is a way to bring it back.”

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(804) 649-6151

Twitter: @collcurran

Colleen Curran covers arts and entertainment for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She writes the weekly column Top Five Weekend Events.

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