Rice paper making
What we say:
En route to Ek Phnom you'll pass a group of houses dedicated to making the rice paper used in wrapping spring rolls, with the workers quite happy for you to stop and take a look.
As the gorgeous green and fertile food basket of Cambodia, Battambang is of course the source of tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of rice. This is transformed not just into white soakage for soups, stews and curries, but also into drinks like rice milk and rice wine, as well as food products like noodles and rice paper.
The latter is used for making the delicious rolls that are stuffed with fresh, crispy veg and meat or shrimp and served fresh or fried with tangy sauces to dip in.
Using methods that go back for centuries, the rice paper is made from a gloopy batter of rice flour, salt and water which is carefully ladled out on to a steam-heated hot plate where it cooks in seconds. The translucent, fragile paper is rolled off and carefully placed on a lattice, ready for drying outside. The calm, precise and repetitive movements are mesmerising.
You can visit the village on your own, with a tuk tuk driver, or join the Soksabike livelihoods tour. The houses are in the middle of some of the best parts of the river road trip. Keep an eye out for the abandoned French colonial style villas, lush forest and emerald paddies.
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