Three Boatmen's Songs by Prince Issara Sunthorn: gastronomy and love on the palate

Bot Hé Rua Chom Krung Khaw Wan, were composed at the end of the 18th century by Prince Issara Sunthon, the future King Rama II, to praise the cooking skills and beauty of his cousin Princess Bunrot, soon to be his wife. Context and translation by Emilie TESTARD, Senior Lecturer in Siamese language and literature.
Femmes siamoises au dîner.
Femmes siamoises au dîner - Dessin de M. Bocourt à partir d’une photographie Dans Henri Mouhot, Voyage dans les royaumes de Siam, de Cambodge, de Laos et autres parties centrales de l’Indo-Chine, Librairie de L.Hachette, Paris, 1868, 335 pages. htt © Dessin de M. Bocourt à partir d’une photographie‎

The Bot Hé Rua Chom Krung Khaw Wan - Boatmen's songs praising savory dishes, fruits and desserts were composed at the end of the 18th century by Prince Issara Sunthon, future King Rama II (born February 24, 1767, the prince acceded to the throne in 1809 under the reigning name of Phra Phuttha Let La Naphalaï (Rama II). He reigned until his death in 1836), to praise the cooking skills and beauty of his cousin Princess Bunrot, soon to become his wife with the title of Si Suriyendra (Phra Phanwasa).

These youthful works, composed in the Hé Rua genre - Chants de bateliers, are adapted for his eulogy by the young prince Issara Sunthon moving away from the panegyric themes of yesteryear, and heralding the literary revival of his coming reign. These Chants, combining the themes of food and love, are proof that a culinary language was established between the two lovers: he, sending dishes, she, a fine cook, garnishing Chinese porcelain with exceptional dishes, exquisite desserts and carved fruit expressing all her feelings on her taste buds.

Each song begins with a stanza in the Khlong form followed by an indeterminate number of stanzas in the Kap form. The gourmet bills sent by the princess are decoded by her lover, who reveals their hidden meaning in his poem. This sentimental cuisine bears witness to the evolution of their relationship and awakens passionate memories in the poet. The expression of amorous sentiment is systematically transferred to a culinary detail, and sometimes the lyricism of love heats up to approach the most suggestive eroticism. The three songs that make up Les Bot Hé Rua Chom Krung Khaw Wan - Boatmen's songs praising savory foods, fruits and desserts, correspond to a moment in the couple's love life.

Lecturer in Siamese language and literature.

- Hé Chom Khruang Khaw - Song praising salty foods
1 - Your Massaman curry stew,My treasure,With fragrances of cuminInflames me.The man who tasted itAspires,To beat his heart,To find you.2 - Massaman, apple of my eye,Smelling cumin with a fiery taste,Whoever has tasted your stew Will dream of it night and day.3 - This mishmash of a thousand ingredients,Whose scents fill the air,Transports me to the hour of fleshWhere we bathe in a single scent.4 - These prepared tripe,Warm, peppery and tangy,Are exquisite, unsurpassed,No other like it.5 - These savory sausagesFrom peppers and leaves escortedAre, like you, charmingly shaped. Far from you, I long.6 - Tiny blue shrimpThat dance in my mouth.Your taste spreads To make my happiness immediate.7 - Meat-rich stewTopped with unctuous fatYour tantalizing flavorsPromote ecstasy.8 - Love is moving,Bitter as sauceOr sweet as pumpkin broth. Your shapes make me dream.9 - This succulent rice studdedWith intoxicating cardamom.No one else knows how to embellish itLike you, my tender friend.10 - The taste of wild boar daubeIs mingled with sorrow.An indentation conceals a secret: Your heart is bruised; inconsolable.11 - Oh! This raw meat salad Whose emanationsRapture me. I think of our cuddly nightsAnd of your fragrant flesh.12 - Canapés that carry me to your bedVast city paved with gold.In your reefs I fall asleep, Happy dreamer entwined. 13 - Maussades aumônièresBurning my charred heart,The violence of my passion overwhelms my boiling breast. 14 - O delectable swallows' nestsWith a taste like no other.I'm like the lonely birdWhen the room by you is abandoned.15 - The catfish's bellyRecords our quarrels.The leaves are melancholyLike me waiting for you.16 - Your vegetable whose name I knowIs this your sweet taste?My blood boils as I catch a glimpse of it. It arouses in me an impetuous desire.

- Hé Chom Phonlamaï - Song praising the fruits.
1 - O! the candied date,Delight of my heart,Bouquet vivid and sweetIn my rapt throat.Are these enchanting flavorsCan they compareTo the sugary sweetness Of your beloved flesh?2 - The candied date Embalms the sweet.Your taste is unsurpassed Sweet crystal of my heart.3 - Young split coconut, A freshness so desirable,Riminates my ardors, Object of my desires.4 - These fruits in icy syrup,Heralds in our exile,Pull tears from me, Reflections of those streaming down your cheeks.5 - Little peeled plums In a crystal bowl ;On joyous evenings, languid, I breathe in the scent of your cheeks.6 - What torment I endure on the durion cushionWhere my heart moaned with joy.The evening revives the memory Of your golden breasts, my little one.7 - Lychee opaline pouts Her sour name has bitterness.My tongue twitches and curvesTo implore a word from you.8 - Thin strips of fruitSweetened with a caramel varnishSimilar to your tender lips smiling at meMore sparkling than this Chinese plum.9 - From the anone you removed all the seeds Opening its green shellWith an expert, fleeting movement: I'm transfixed by your talent.10 - These brown grapesWith incomparable taste,Are like your slender waist When pierced with a pike.11 - Incarnate pomegranate seeds Like gems on a dish laid out,Their captivating red sparkles Like the ruby that adorns your little finger.12 - Blond durion golden On a doily of leavesHer complexion is to yours similar, O my fair one with glistening skin.13 - Langsats with flavored flesh You are ripe and sweet.Your pips in my mouth Make me think of the moon's course.14 - Ngo's beauty is hidden But once pitted, the rambutanIs recognized by Rochana Who had suspected its flavor.15 - Sala poisoned, Your tree is covered with thornsThat wound like love's stingWhen, cruel, you abandon me.

- Hey Chom Khruang Wan - Song praising the desserts
1 - Egg custard From my memoryOn glutinous rice In the colors of sadnessTell me about our quarrelMy darlingAnd bring me back your sadnessMy tender beloved.2 - Egg custardOver rice tinged with sadnessInduced with jealousyTrust me your bitterness.3 - Salim with suave freshness Floating in coconut milk.When my tortured heart is dry, I inhale its camphorated vapors.4 - Lamchiak whose name Brings me the fragrance of your breath,My moved heart laments. I want you by my side, ravishing flower.5 - How to kiss these doughnuts named kisses? Accord to me this question.Squeeze it with your fingertips and you'll understandThe name so evocative of these sweets.6 - Admirable little pancakes Fine, rounded doughAnd this delicious chicken stewWhose fragrances recall India.7 - Pinched cakes that you've wrappedwith care and whose taste is so pleasantMake me think of the pleatingSo regular of the skirt that envelops you.8 - The taste of love dominatesThese mouthfuls of wax.I see your tapered fingers againRound and fine as candles.9 - Heavenly pinches of goldMade of three little regular folds.I see you again distractedly drawing salts, Podesty bending your face.10 - Cakes of glowing embers, Fire consumes my heart.I burn knowing you're far from me. When will my heart find your candor again?11 - Flour nestWhere the reckless bird comes to nest.Oh my heart palpitates like a bird's, Happy to have found a nest.12 - Golden drops with scorched dress, Golden volutes awaken my memory.Our two years in hiding And love in intimacy.13 - Beautiful crowns In royal name and gold fashionedYou revive in me the desire To touch my fair one's belt.14 - Floating lotuses in full bloom Make me think of the lotuses of the god KammaAnd draw my senses Toward your lovely, soft breasts.15 - Appetizing purple flowersWith such a flowery scentAt your fuchsia scarfAre coordinated.16 - Pelotes of angel hairLike silk from sweet eggsBring me back to you, my darling, When you embroider gold threads from China.

Siamese women at dinner - Drawing by M. Bocourt from a photograph.
In Henri Mouhot, Voyage dans les royaumes de Siam, de Cambodge, de Laos et autres parties centrales de l'Indo-Chine, Librairie de L.Hachette, Paris, 1868, 335 pages.

Original video texts:

- Song praising savory dishes

- Song praising fruits

- Song praising desserts

Femmes siamoises au dîner. 2
Femmes siamoises au dîner. 2 © DR‎
Le roi Rama II et sa reine Sri Suriyendra
Le roi Rama II et sa reine Sri Suriyendra. © DR‎