Kampot pepper: the return of the king of Cambodia

Pepe di Kampot: il ritorno del re della Cambogia

In this article you will find everything you need to know about Kampot pepper , a variety of highly prized pepper with a long history behind it, we met it during a trip to Cambodia to discover new spices and aromas to use. to produce our gins.

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Curiosities about the world of pepper

Did you know that the Piperaceae family has more than 3600 different species? Most of us think that there are only black, white, red and green pepper, among other things few know that they actually come from the same plant, they are simply collected at different times of the maturation stage.

The history of pepper in the area of ​​Southeast Asia dates back to over 4000 years ago when local populations began to cultivate this spice, for this reason today pepper is used in large quantities in Asian cuisine and is one of the basic elements of medicine. Ayurvedic.


The origins of the "king of pepper"

In its heyday, early 1900s, Kampot pepper was exported all over the world and was one of the flagship spices of the most famous restaurants in Paris.

Soon after came one of the darkest periods for Kampot pepper and the inhabitants of this area, during the Khmer Rouge regime, responsible for the death of nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population.

The result was the destruction of much of the pepper plantations, it took more than ten years for farmers to return to the traditional Kampot pepper harvest, awakening the culture handed down for thousands of years by their ancestors.

Today the Kampot pepper, also known as “the king of pepper”, has received from the Cambodian government the certification of origin from a geographical area produced and has returned to its former glory.

Why is Kampot pepper so prized?

During our trip to Cambodia we got to know the history of this spice in depth, Kampot black pepper is considered one of the best peppers in the world, and by visiting the plantations we understood why:

  • It is harvested exclusively by hand and many steps of the manufacturing process are manual and handed down from family to family
  • True Kampot pepper grows only around areas bordering the city of Kampot which has no more than 50,000 inhabitants. There are only 200 small plantations with a production that does not exceed 250kg per plantation.
  • The soil is very rich in minerals and quartz, which, like a good vine, make the difference when it comes to giving aromas and fragrances.


What is the secret of the lands around Kampot?

As for wines, the soil plays a fundamental role, the lands around Kampot are particularly rich in minerals and quartz crystals, the soil is soft and favors the growth of an abundant root system in the subsoil, this in combination with the warm climate tropical offers ideal conditions for pepper growth.

A plant produces only 3kg of pepper every year and they need a constant flow of water, the Kampot pepper is absolutely organic and is not intensively cultivated, the plants are treated only with natural pesticides and the local growers pass down from generation to generation. in generation the secrets for the cultivation of this plain.

The Kampot pepper is harvested before the berries reach complete ripeness, the color of the fruit is a bright orange, once dried it can be stored and used.

How is Kampot pepper grown?

On our trip to Kampot we visited one of the largest pepper plantations, known as "La Plantation", here we had the opportunity to discover how Kampot pepper is born

In this region of Cambodia, pepper is harvested from February to May. At that time of year it is easy to find farmers who manually harvest the bunches of pepper by selecting them based on the degree of ripeness. Usually only the ripest large peppers are collected and the others are left on the plant, ready for the next harvest.


After harvesting, the clusters must be processed quickly within the day, they are in fact washed and left to dry in the sun, periodically during the day they are turned in order to guarantee optimal drying. The drying lasts 2/3 days and is essential to intensify the scent of Kampot pepper.

At this point the peppercorns are shelled one by one, only the larger grains can be sold as a product under the name of Pepe neri di Kampot IGP.

Variety of Kampot pepper: aroma and flavor

There are four types of Kampot pepper, all born from the same plant, what changes is the moments in which they are harvested and the subsequent processing process:

Quality Processing Aroma
Green Kampot Pepper It is harvested from the plant when it is still young In this version the pepper is very aromatic and not too spicy, widely used in Cambodian cuisine combined with fried dishes
Black Kampot Pepper
The berries are harvested, dried in the sun until completely dehydrated
Very intense aroma and explosive taste.
Kampot red pepper
Left to ripen on the plant, the sun gives it its red color. Once harvested , growers must process it within 24 hours by immersing it in boiling water and then drying it.
The taste is decidedly sweet, with aromas of rose hips and red fruits
White Kampot Pepper
It comes from red pepper, in the process in hot water it is left for longer in order to remove the outer peel and bring out the white color
This pepper has a herbaceous aftertaste with notes of lime and black tea.

Finally, one of our favorite discoveries, the long pepper from Kampot: it has a very intense flavor, with sweet and fruity notes, a hint of cinnamon and cocoa. It has a less spicy and intense taste than black pepper, so it is ideal in combination with delicate foods, we have decided to use it to distill our artisan gin.


In the kitchen with Kampot Pepper

When you think of pepper you normally pair it with savory dishes, but Cambodian pepper is extremely fragrant and can be used in a thousand ways, here are some ideas for your dishes in the kitchen.

  • Grilled meats : uses black pepper from Kampot, its strong taste goes perfectly with dishes cooked on a good grill.
  • Pasta Cacio e Pepe from Kampot : I know that purists will have something to say, but seeing is believing! 😊 Toast the pepper in a pan before using it in order to release all the aromatic band.
  • Fried seafood: Grind some green Kampot pepper on the fry, this pepper is fragrant and delicate and goes perfectly with fish.
  • Desserts: there are different desserts that you can prepare, such as pepper cookies, chocolate and pepper brownies, pear and pepper and chocolate cake; surely the pepper moves perfectly with the chocolate
  • Flavored Gin Tonic : You can flavor your gin and tonic with a few berries of Kampot pepper, you will find that infused botanicals can work wonders.

Properties of Kampot pepper

Kampot pepper shares the properties of the Piperaceae family , a pinch of black pepper helps to increase the absorption of nutrients within the food, it also promotes digestion and metabolism


I suggest you try the essential oil with pepper: it is a strong antioxidant, has digestive properties, regulates gastrointestinal activity and has a carminative action. It is used as a remedy to fight cellulite as it stimulates both blood and lymphatic circulation. Pepper oil also has antibacterial and antioxidant properties,

Kampot pepper and artisanal gin

As you can imagine, this spice is very close to our hearts, which is why we decided to honor it by including this botanical in our gin "Elly's 21", a premium artisan gin that tells of our travels in the area of ​​Southeast Asia . From each trip we have returned with a spice that we have expertly blended to create a gin with a unique scent.


Kampot pepper price and where to find it

Kampot pepper represents an important source of livelihood for the local population and is almost entirely produced for export. If you want to buy this spice I recommend that you check that the manufacturer does not mix it with other types of peppers and that it comes from the Kampot area.

1 KG of Kampot pepper can cost between 100 and 150 euros, which is a lot compared to a package of generic black pepper which usually costs 15-20 euros per kg.

Clearly we are talking about a spice that is harvested by hand in a very limited region of the earth, if you want to try it you will also find on the market packs of 50-100 grams with a price that varies between 8 and 15 euros.

Travel reflections

The journey to discover the Kampot region gave us this fantastic experience, as you may have guessed, the Kampot pepper is not a simple spice, it has an incredible history behind it and comes from the passion of the local farmers who every day devote themselves with love to their plantations.

If you are planning a trip to Cambodia, go to the discovery of this wonderful area of ​​the world, in the meantime you can try this gin and enjoy a gin and tonic in company at sunset. Meanwhile, I leave you with this video that tells how wonderful this pepper is.

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