Them Eat Cake
By Nhem Chea Bunly
The Cambodia Daily
Kratie province - Srey Yieng, 52, used to make kralan cake for special
occasions. Using a family recipe that her father had passed on to her, she
would cook a batch of cakes and sell them at Chinese New Year and Khmer New
Year in her village of Thmar Kre.
But somehow, word got out that in this village on the Mekong River, people
made the best kralan. Now, customers travel the 7 km of dirt road north of
Kratie to buy Thmar Kre kralan, which Srey Yieng and others have started
making every week.
Huot Sopha has become addicted to that kralan, and buys 15 to 20 kg per
"It smells and tastes so good, so much better than the kralan made in
Kompong Cham and Stung Treng provinces," the soldier said.
Kong Sarath, a car driver from Phnom Penh, has also become a regular
customer. Whenever he comes to the area, he gets a couple of kilos for
himself and about 10 kilos for his relatives.
"This kralan is more delicious than in Kompong Chhnang and Battambang
provinces," Kong Sarath said.
Thmar Kre is renowned for using the best quality sticky rice to make kralan,
said villager Ken Phy, who has been making the cake for two years. The rice
is mixed with red pea seeds, sugar, coconut milk, coconut pulp and a touch
of salt, he explained.
The mixture is then put inside a bamboo stick and slowly roasted for about
90 minutes on a wood fire, said Ken Phy. This is the hard part, he added,
because roasting is done from about midnight until 3 am, and the process
must be carefully monitored. Roasting is done in the early mornings to
provide a fresh product.
Srey Yieng, who has been making kralan for 13 years, used to sell it by the
stick. But with orders coming in, she has switched to selling the cakes by
Ken Phy charges about 2,500 to 3,000 riel ($0.63 to $0.75) per kilo, he
said. This leaves him with a profit of about 10,000 riel ($2.50) per day
when he sells all his cakes, which usually is the case, Ken Phy said. On
special order, he flavors the cakes with jackfruit, which he sells for a
Some Thmar Kre villagers now take their kralan to the Kratie boat quay at 6
am. The cakes are so popular that by 9 am, there is no kralan left, said
Kong Naran, a villager and cake maker. "With this business, I earn a good
living." She sells about 20 kilos per day.
Orders now come in from Phnom Penh, said Nan Phalla, who serves as an
intermediary between Thmar Kre cake makers and out-of-Kratie buyers.
High-ranking government officials and members of the royal family buy up to
150 kilos at a time, she said. Some Cambodians have even bought kralan for
their relatives in the US, said Nan Phalla.
Kratie province has so far been famous for its grapefruit and naem the
salty, jelly cakes cut in triangles and wrapped in banana leaves. With their
kralan, villagers of Thmar Kre on National Road 13 have just added a
delicacy to Kratie's list of specialties.