Cambodia’s Kampot pepper: most sought after and best in the world

A handful of elite chefs and food vendors around the world will safeguard the pepper’s core asset being exceptional quality.

Kampot Pepper exists in 3 colors, black, red and white.
“They say that the delicacy and sweetness of Kampot pepper put it in a class of its own. “It’s got a floral dimension that’s really something special,” says food-and-travel-show host Anthony Bourdain. In New York City, Michael Laiskonis, executive pastry chef at the famed Le Bernardin restaurant, says Kampot pepper has “a certain sweetness to it rather than straightforward heat.” Laiskonis has used it to flavor everything from ice cream to goat-cheese mousse.”

Why not substitute your recipes using pepper with Kampot pepper for a subliminal taste? Although fresh green Kampot pepper is none like any other pepper. Share your creative recipes or ideas.

Try these traditional Cambodian recipes that use Kampot pepper

One of the reasons why Kampot pepper is so delicious is the local climate. The ingredient is only produced in half a dozen districts of the Cambodian provinces of Kampot and Kep, and it is the first Cambodian product to enjoy the E.U.’s protected geographical status, which certifies the origin of regional foods. Nestled between mountains and the sea, the local area’s pepper-perfect microclimate offers mineral-rich soil and frequent rainfall. Traditional farming methods — knowledge of which, thankfully, survived the horror of the Khmer Rouge years — do the rest. “The techniques have passed down,” Nguon Lay explains, “learned from children watching their parents.”

The dogged determination to revive a once threatened crop is now starting to pay dividends. “It has a lot of cachet, something from the past,” says Bourdain. A full renaissance is a long way off: Cambodia exported only a few thousand kilograms last year. But awareness is growing fast, and as Laiskonis points out, Kampot pepper offers that all-important element of romance. “It has been rescued from time and events,” he says. “Ingredients that tell a story are a special thing you can offer people.”

Read more: Cambodia’s Comeback Spice – TIME

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