Kampot Red and Kampot Long Red Peppercorns

Kampot Red & Kampot Long Red Peppercorns

Katherine Loffreto

The Kampot Pepper, in both its long and small round forms, is perhaps one of the most interesting and exotic spices on the planet. While it’s been assumed for many years that the best peppercorns originated from India, the Kampot Peppercorn – which hails from Cambodia – is having a bit of a moment. The Kampot Provence sits on the southern coast of the country, and produces some of the most extraordinary spices the world has ever known.

The Kampot region offers terrific growing conditions for the pepper – often attributed to the warm, moist climate and the abundance of quartz in the soil from the nearby Elephant Mountains. The soil aside, the region holds a deep knowledge of pepper production that has been passed down from generation to generation. The pepper has been grown in the region since the 13th century! Plantations are overseen and inspected by the KPPA  - the Kampot Pepper Producers Association – can you believe that’s a thing?! It designates the region as having a product that can’t be produced elsewhere for the same quality – much like Champagne. 

The production for these prized peppercorns is extensive - At the peak of the dry season, around the month of March, the peppercorns begin to ripen from yellow to red. The red peppercorns are then harvested by hand at full maturity. On the pepper cluster, the farmers carefully pick each red peppercorn and leave the bunch on the tree to let the other corns ripen. The other method is to pick the clusters that contain about a quarter of red peppercorns. These clusters will then be processed the same day at the production workshop. For these clusters, our employees will carry out the selection on the table and gently pick the red peppercorns by hand. These red peppercorns are very fragile and require careful treatment. The peppercorns are then washed, blanched, and sundried for 2-3 days, depending on the local weather, until they reach their optimum dryness.

The flavor of these incredible peppercorns is just as complex as the region. As you begin to taste it, powerful and fruity aromas develop. The flavor is unique and continues to evolve through the tasting process. There are initial notes of dried fruits such as prune, fig, and dates – then higher more acidic notes of dried fruit like currant, raspberry, and strawberry. Beneath all of this is a very subtle honey-like sweetness. The pepperiness, while certainly noticeable, is not overwhelming. The spiciness is more intense than black peppercorns – but with a pleasant zing, not a hot jalapeno heat.

The uses for both the long and round versions of the peppercorn are numerous. The long version can either be grated on a microplane or metal box grater or it can be broken up into smaller pieces and put inside a traditional pepper grinder. The round Kampot peppercorns work wonderfully in a spice grinder. Alternatively, they could be crushed in a mortar and pestle. The gentle heat and lovely fruitness of the pepper lends it to so many applications. It can be added to a grinder for general everyday use – just be sure to not mix it with other peppercorns so its flavor really shines! Try grating it over smoked meats like duck, ribs, and pork chops. The fruit flavors would pair beautifully with grilled fruits like pineapple and mango. A little crack over some fresh strawberries or vanilla ice cream would be absolutely divine.

Whether you choose the long or round version, you can be assured that your spice game will be strong! Your guests are going to absolutely love the unique flavors and incredible history of the Kampot Red Peppercorns and Kampot Long Red Peppercorns. Bon appetite!