• About Slow Noodles

    SLOW NOODLES: Recipes for Rebuilding a Lost Civilization

    SLOW NOODLES is a Cambodian survivor's memoir of food, longing, and recovered recipes. (Coming in Q1 2024.)

    The title, "Slow Noodles," is an expression of Chantha’s personal philosophy in the kitchen and in life: The best dishes require extra time and love to prepare, and rebuilding a society after genocide takes generations of investment—no quick fixes.


    Chantha's childhood kitchen in 1960s Battambang was a wonderland of flavors, from Khmer village fare to sumptuous French dishes. Her mother prepared meals the old-school way, grinding rice to make rice flour and cooking over a charcoal fire. To her, slower was better, and she despised the flavor of short cuts.


    Chantha carries that legacy forward in her own kitchen, and has passed on those family recipes to her daughter Clara. In writing this book, she aims to pass them on to a new generation of Cambodians, thereby reviving a style of Khmer home cooking that was nearly lost to decades of war and genocide.


    That "slow noodles" philosophy also extends to Chantha's life's work as a social entrepreneur. In the 1990s, as Cambodia struggled to rise from the ashes of genocide, Chantha saw how billions in international aid were often wasted on band-aid solutions that did little to help traumatized survivors relearn self-sufficiency. She co-founded the Stung Treng Women's Development Center, a nonprofit silk-weaving center, to help impoverished families along the long, difficult path toward economic self-reliance.


    "I have been through poverty and back out again," she writes. "I know how to show other women how it’s done. And that has become my life’s work."

  • About Chantha Nguon

    Author. Social entrepreneur. Khmer cooking expert.

    Chantha Nguon

    Survivor & Social Entrepreneur

    In 1970, nine-year-old Chantha Nguon fled Cambodia, leaving behind a happy childhood, spent mostly in her mother’s kitchen. As her homeland plunged into the darkness of Pol Pot’s “Year Zero,” Chantha and her mother and sister resettled in war-torn Saigon and used their culinary artistry to eke out nourishing meals from garbage rations.


    By age 24, Chantha was alone in the world, with no family or savings. She spent ten hungry years in squalid Thai refugee camps, hoping to begin a new life in America. When that hope died, she went home to Cambodia and rebuilt a life amidst the ruins—in part, by resurrecting her mother's recipes.


    SLOW NOODLES is Chantha's upcoming memoir of losing everything and fighting to get it back, a reflection on strength and survival, and a love-letter to the mother who gave her the recipes for both.

    Mekong Blue

    A Social Enterprise in Stung Treng, Cambodia

    In 2001, Chantha and her husband Chan created a successful social enterprise for women in remote Stung Treng province. At the Stung Treng Women’s Development Center, women weave shimmering “Mekong Blue” silk scarves on hand-built looms, bring their children to an on-site kindergarten, and make a living wage.


    Having made her own way out of poverty, Chantha has found happiness and purpose in lighting the path for others.


    Click here to learn more about Mekong Blue silk and the social services at SWDC.

  • Images from Mekong Blue & SWDC 

    In a remote Cambodian village, women learn to weave exquisite silk scarves and new lives of economic independence.

    Stung Treng Women's Development Center:

    A day in the life of a Cambodian social enterprise

    Interview with Chantha Nguon:

    The SWDC co-founder, on finding a life's work by offering women a way out of poverty

  • FAQ

    An introduction to Khmer cuisine

    What is Khmer cooking like?

    Cambodian food resembles the cuisines of Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand, but with a few defining tastes that set it apart—including sour-tasting soups with tamarind or lime, and prahok, our famous fermented fish paste.

    Can I find the ingredients?

    Although some supplies might play hard to get, most U.S. cities have specialty markets that carry things like rice paper wrappers, lemongrass, Thai basil, glutinous rice, tamarind, coconut milk, palm sugar, and a wide variety of noodles. And most of the ingredients—such as pork, rice, eggs, shallots, garlic, or fish—are available in any grocery.

  • Cooking Videos

    Starring Chantha and Clara

    Fried Spring Rolls

    Chantha Nguon

    Prepared on a Khmer-style charcoal grill in her Phnom Penh courtyard

    Mee Chha

    Clara Kim

    A delicious egg noodle stir-fry with chicken and bok choy

    Bobor Sam Jok

    Clara Kim

    A favorite Khmer comfort food: rice porridge with pork

    Lemongrass Fried Tofu

    Chantha Nguon

    An easy way to make tofu exciting and tasty

    Bánh Flan

    Clara Kim

    A Southeast Asian take on the classic crème caramel

    Num Kruok

    Chantha & Clara

    A Khmer coconut/rice pancake and popular street food

    Beef & Jiacama Spring Rolls

    Chantha & Clara

    Fresh rolls 2 ways—for vegetarians and meat lovers

    Bánh Xèo

    Chantha Nguon

    The how and why of cooking Vietnamese crepes. Hint: It's about togetherness.

    Fried Spring Rolls

    Chantha Nguon

    Chantha demonstrates her mother's famous recipe for pork spring rolls, fried over a Khmer charcoal grill

  • The Blog

    Musings about memory, culture, cooking, and eating.

    July 22, 2019 · cooking,memoir,Cambodian food,home cooking,banh xeo
    March 11, 2019 · social enterprise,malnutrition,world hunger,poverty,Cambodia
    February 15, 2019 · cooking,memoir,Cambodia,refugees,social enterprise
    More Posts
  • Press for Slow Noodles & Mekong Blue

    The Gradual Extinction of Softness (Hippocampus Magazine: Nov. 2021)

    Chosen as a top story of the week by Longreads, The Browser, FERN, HackerNews, and BMoreArt.

    Much-Needed Reckonings

    (Chapter 16, Jan. 2022)

    The story of how Chantha and Kim became accidental food writers together—and learned from fellow writers.

    Doors Open, the World Enters In (Nashville Lifestyles, Fall/Winter 2019)

    She Despised the Flavor of Short Cuts (Roads & Kingdoms, 2016)

    An "Improper Woman," by Clara Kim (Nashville Scene, 2015)

    Won a national AAN award in 2016.

    ‘Social’ businesses pursue profit with a cause (Nashville Business Journal, 2011)

    Silk Scarves Combat Sex Trade (NPR's Morning Edition, 2009)

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