Pepper fiend explains the nuances of Kampot’s finest

The Greenhouse take on Kampot pepper steak
The Greenhouse take on Kampot pepper steak. Photo Supplied

Pepper fiend explains the nuances of Kampot’s finest

The Greenhouse guesthouse in Kampot – long renowned not only for being one of the most chilled out places in Cambodia but also for having great food – has launched a new menu. Will Jackson caught up with co-owner Steven Paoli, 35, who is apparently completely obsessed with Kampot’s most famous condiment

Can you give us the gist of what the new menu is about?

The Kampot pepper is the best in the world, and Marco – my business partner – and I made it our goal to create a fusion cuisine with my French knowledge and local products. What is more local than pepper? So we started to try new products, like fresh red Kampot pepper, or fresh and dry long pepper, which is an old speciality of the Kampot area, without knowing what will be the result. And we were more than surprised. New flavours, new sensations; we had something unique, new and incredibly good! So we kept working on it. And now we have more than 20 pepper specialities, actually. The home made foie gras with fresh red Kampot pepper is one of the new dishes. But the specialities are the duck magret with green Kampot pepper sauce and sauteed potatoes in olive oil and thyme; the swordfish fillet with ratatouille and jasmine rice in a fresh red Kampot pepper butter and lime sauce. And of course, fresh baked every day at 4pm, the famous fresh red Kampot pepper and chocolate cookies – a must-do!

Different pepper for different dishes
Different pepper for different dishes. Photo Supplied

What are the different uses of the various peppers?

The black is perfect for everything. It’s deep on the mouth, has a long intensity on the tongue. Very floral. The dry red is very fruity, light but strong. It perfectly fits with a good salad, fruits and chocolate. The white is the pepper for the fish. Just put white pepper on the bones before slow cooking in papillote [folded paper or bag] in the oven. Amazing! The fresh green pepper is made for red meat, and particularly with a good duck breast or a heart of fillet steak. The fresh red pepper is the most amazing product we have the chance to work with. It is something unique, new, difficult to describe. It’s fruity, sweet, deeply flavoured but not overly strong. We use it with foie gras, fish, custard cream and homemade chocolate fondant, cookies – this product is magic! The long pepper, which is dried, is used in our chef’s salad, which makes it such a colourful dish, for the eyes and the mouth. With more strength, this pepper is perfect for fish, salads and galette bretonne. The fresh long pepper is used in a special Cambodian traditional soup – a recipe from a grandma in the village. The peppery flesh melts in the mouth and the spicy side explodes on your tongue. Perfect with shrimps. And, of course, the bird pepper. The red pepper is eaten straight on the pepper trees by the birds. They digest it and reject it by natural ways. The pepper is then picked up in the fields in a laborious work, and in limited quantity. And it has some aphrodisiac properties. The taste is very subtle, with citrus notes, very nasal, superb – perfect for all white meat, especially the red snapper.

What’s your favourite of the new dishes?

I love the provincial squid breaded in French butter and fresh green Kampot pepper and lime – perfect as an appetiser to share with a bottle of wine on the sunset. And I’m crazy about our special new foie gras with fresh red Kampot pepper.

Where do you get your pepper from?

Our pepper is exclusively produced by Farm Link in Kampot, which is the best organic producer in Cambodia, far and away from the others. We have a special privileged relationship, and have straight contact with the farmers through them.

What is so special about the pepper in Kampot anyway?

Every specialist will tell you that one of the best pepper in the world is grown here in Kampot. The quality of the soil, the organic way of growing make such a unique product, so powerful and so tasty. Just smell the bells in your hands and you will understand.

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