Expat Living: Kenden Alfond in Battambang Cambodia
I love nothing more than reading about the stories of other expats who’ve moved abroad and began doing something exceptional and inspirational with their lives. Today, I’m pleased to feature Kenden Alfond in Battambang Cambodia, who hails from the United States and is now founder of Jewish Food Hero.
Expat Living: Kenden Alfond in Battambang Cambodia
Kenden Alfond is the founder of Jewish Food Hero which nourishes the minds, bodies, and spirits of Jewish women around the globe. She offers vegan recipes that are a modern twist on traditional Jewish meals and resources to support an intuitive turning toward greater health. You can find The Jewish Food Hero Cookbook: 50 Simple Plant Based Recipes for Your Holiday Meals at jewishfoodhero.com.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Maine, USA.
Where are you living now and how long have you been there? Do you plan on staying?
I live in Battambang, Cambodia. I’ve been living in Cambodia for almost 5 years. I’m not sure how much longer I will stay in Cambodia.
Did you move there alone or with family, friends, a significant other or even a pet?
I moved to Cambodia with my husband and my daughter right before her second birthday.
What brought you to your new home? Tell us your story.
My husband and I came to Asia in 2007 while we were working in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We both loved it and always wanted to come back. In 2011, my husband retired after 27 years of service in the United Nations World Food Programme and we were living in Geneva Switzerland working on our project Aid Worker Support.
We decided to come to Cambodia to visit friends during the winter. We both missed living and working in “developing countries”. We never left. During our first year here, we started the French International School in Battambang.
What do you do work wise? Is finding work in your city easy? What are the visa requirements like?
I first went abroad to work on humanitarian, post-conflict, and development issues. Once I became a mom, I wasn’t willing to work the long hours I put in for NGOs and the United Nations. That’s when I founded Jewish Food Hero, a international lifestyle blog for Jewish women.
Through Jewish Food Hero, I share recipes with a modern, vegan twist on traditional Jewish meals, as well as inspiring and beautiful resources, such as the luxe letterpress holiday calendar. My goal is to encourage a intuitive turning towards greater health and support women as they engage in Jewish life.
How do you “blend in” and be accepted by locals?
How did you make friends? Are you friends with locals or with other expats?
As a mother of a young child, I have Cambodian and ex-pat “Mom-friends” and “family-friends” mostly.
Our family hosts a weekly Shabbat dinner on Friday nights. The meals are always vegan and we invite our friends and people we have met during the week. It’s not uncommon that my husband calls me on Friday afternoon saying “I just met some people traveling, can they come for Shabbat?”
We try to stimulate a meaningful discussion at the Shabbat dinner. Often times on Friday morning, we’ll print out the Parsha commentary written by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and read part of it during the dinner and then discuss the main themes.
What has been the most shocking thing you learned about the local culture?
Cambodia is a Buddhist country (Theravada Buddhism). My expat friend described the social/emotional atmosphere as one focused on “cooling the passions.” Therefore, people rarely if ever show anger, speak directly about conflict or say “no”.
Communication and interpersonal relationships are very nuanced and it takes time to really understand what people mean.
Did you have to learn a language? What learning methods do you recommend?
I haven’t learned the local language. I learned French over my 10+ years as an expat, and there many young people here that speak English or French. With that said, there are many group and one-to-one options available for people who do want to learn Khmer.
What do you love the most about your new home?
In Cambodia, I benefit every day from the friendly and warm social atmosphere, the slow pace and simpler lifestyle in South East Asia, and the traditional food culture. The staple food for Cambodians is rice. Meals include lots of vegetables, plenty of herbs, leaves and pickled vegetables. It’s easy and nourishing to eat plant based in Cambodia (and Asia in general).
What do you “hate” the most about your new home?
I wouldn’t use the word hate. It takes some time and skillfulness to get attuned with the slower pace and the nuanced communication style here in South East Asia.
Kenden‘s Favourite Things in Battambang
Cambodians love markets and Battambang is home to many. Of particular interest is Psar Nat (“meeting place market”) in the centre of town. It’s housed in an impressive art deco style building and worth a look.
The first and only grocery store in Battambang, Heng Chhay Ly Mart.
Riverside Balcony Bar is a beautiful nightlife spot located on the edge of town, in an traditional Khmer house overlooking the Sangkar River.
Here are a few of my favorites (vegetarian and vegan options are available).
Local: Coconut Lyly is a family run restaurant that offers a delicious traditional Khmer menu that’s beautifully presented and delicious.
For good: Lonely Tree Cafe is a social enterprise serving up lovely meals in a restored Khmer rowhouse. In addition to the food, you can find locally made clothes and crafts.
Breakfast and coffee: Kinyei Cafe has the best coffee in town and a nourishing breakfast menu.
International fare (best french fries in Cambodia): Cafe Eden is a non-profit cafe with many international food options, air conditioning, and good coffee and bagels. It’s a perfect place to have brunch and spend a few hours reading, trip planning, or writing in your notebook.
Best Pizza in Southeast Asia: La Casa offers made from scratch fresh pizza that pleases. This pizza will satisfy when you crave a non-rice meal in Battambang.
Things to do?
Coconut Lyly Cooking School is a perfect half day activity in Battambang. In the class, chef Lyly takes you on a tour of the local food market and then teaches you how to prepare a traditional Cambodian meal. The food is delicious and the school is professional and clean.
Weird and offbeat attraction?
Make time to see a performance of the Phare Ponleu Selpak – Battambang Circus.
Get Social With Kenden Alfond
- Website: http://jewishfoodhero.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JewishFoodHero
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/jewishfoodhero
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jewishfoodhero/
- Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jewishfoodhero/
Expat Living Information
Did you like this interview with Kenden Alfond in Battambang Cambodia? If you want to read stories from other expats, check out our expat living section where you’ll find interviews with people like Jason Mueller in Playa Jaco or Carly Hulls in Vienna.
For all things Berlin, check out my Berlin guide.
Note – all photos are courtesy of Matkonation.