The Legend Of Samlor KAKO
By: Moul Vongs. ( Jul - Aug, 2001 Volume 1 No.3 )

Samlor Kako has become more than a soup to Cambodian people. Its complex flavors and long list of ingredients has seen it graduate into the realms of folklore. There are many slightly different versions of this famous story. This is the one compiled by Culture Development Department of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. In Khmer is it called Mon Sner Srei Khmao _ Young Black Lady's Magic Formula for a Love Charm. "Once upon a time, there was a kingdom called Aranh Panh-chak Seila, or "forest country that follows the principle of five virtues". Its crown prince was a young man named Guj Monoraj. One day, Prince Guj Monoraj decided he wished to spend a day relaxing, hunting game in the forest.

The next day, he rode his horse quietly out of the palace at dawn, without telling anyone about his planned adventure. The further he rode, the more verdant and thick the forest became until he was swallowed up in it. "I had forgotten how beautiful the forest was," he told himself, awed. Just then, he spotted an antelope, head down and grazing in the shade of a nearby tree. Tempted by the animal's fearlessness, he matched an arrow to his bow and shot at the antelope. But he missed, instead hitting a tree stump that stood between himself and its belly. The antelope leapt away in panic, with the prince urging his horse on after it at full gallop.
The antelope melted into the forest, and the prince suddenly realized he was lost. Scratched and bleeding, with his clothes torn and disheveled, he picked his way to the edge of the forest and eventually made out the roofs of a town. All the exertion and loss of blood had weakened him, however, and he passed out on his horse's neck as it ambled towards the village. When they reached the village, the horse stopped in front of a house where an elderly couple and their daughter, a beautiful young girl called Neang Khmao (which means Young Black Girl) were going about their daily business. The old man heard the horse and came out to see this strange creature that had arrived there. When he saw the prince unconscious on its back, he called to his wife to help him carry him inside. The prince eventually regained consciousness, but was still very weak, so the family nursed him back to health, never realizing who he was. On one day, the prince saw Neang Khmao and her mother preparing a strange type of soup he had never seen before. It seemed to him as if every vegetable that had ever been was going into this exotic brew.

"What is this soup you are creating?" he asked. "Samlor muoy roy mouk _ soup of 100 ingredients," Neang Khmao replied. When the prince tasted it, it was the most wonderful soup he had ever had. Back at the prince's palace, his parents had noticed his absence and now commanded a brigade to search for him throughout the land. Finally, the soldiers found their young prince at an orchard, keeping Neang Khmao company. They escorted the pair back to her parents' house, and there the prince revealed his true identity before returning to his palace. Upon his return the prince reported on his adventures to the king. "One day, you must taste this Samlor of 100 ingredients, too," he said. Two weeks passed, and the prince could not forget Neang Khmao. He persuaded his parents to return to her home with him to taste this wonderous soup, so together with their army and servants they traveled back to Neang Khmao. Burning with love, the young prince gave Neang Khmao a big hug when he saw her. Her relatives scrambled to find all the ingredients needed to prepare the soup. By the next morning, the locals had all gathered to prepare Samlor muoy roy mouk in a huge kteah thnot, a large container used for refining palm juice into sugar.

Three cooks were assigned to prepare the Samlor, constantly stirring it as it cooked. When the soup was done, the king was overwhelmed by the aroma and had to taste it immediately. Standing and sipping a bowl of soup before the kneeling cooks, the king could not contain himself. Even though he had not invented this dish, and his famous royal cooks had not invented it, he was overcome by its flavor. "It is delicious," he exclaimed, then stopped himself. "But…it seems to me that it still lacks something." His eye caught a plate of ankar - ling (toasted rice) placed over a strap made of rattan that Neang Khmao had left out for the sparrows. He poured a little into soup, then tasted it again. "That's it! Now it is very delicious," he said. "What's the name of this soup?" "Your Majesty! It is called Samlor 100 mouk!" the villagers humbly replied. The king looked at them. "No," he said. "You'd better to call it Samlor Kako (stirred soup) as I observed that all of you are always stirring the soup." Everyone agreed, because he was the king. The king was delighted with himself for making the soup more delicious, and even giving it a new name. And since then Samlor muoy roy mouk has always been called Samlor kako.