The Essential Peppercorns

The Essential Peppercorns

Katherine Loffreto

The red, white, and black. We know, something about that doesn’t sound quite right. We’re not referring to the colors of our great American flag, but the peppercorns that should be in your kitchen! We’re talking about Kampot Red, Malabar White, and Sarawak Black peppercorns! Each has their own distinctive characteristics and purposes in your kitchen. These three peppercorns are essentials in the discerning chef’s pantry and it would be a real shame to cook without them!

What’s in a name? The strange sounding names of these peppercorns actually make a lot of sense. The First word refers to the product’s origin. Kampot is a city in southern Cambodia. Malabar refers to a region of southwest India. And Sarawak is a state of Malaysia. The colors, of course, refer to the appearance of the peppercorn – each having its own unmistakable identity – White, Red, and Black.

The final flavor and appearance of the peppercorns is largely dependent on the peppercorn’s growing environment and treatment. The peppercorns are all Piper nigrum which is actually a flowering vine from which the dried fruits are cultivated. It’s the processing of those fruits that determines the eventual disposition of the spice.  

Kampot Red Pepppercorns

The Kampot Red Peppercorns hail from Kampot - a city of Southern Cambodia known for its pepper plantations and salt fields. The red peppercorns consist of the ripe fruit of the Piper nigrum that has been dried in a way that it retains the red color. The flavor is slightly floral, with hints of sweetness along with some spice like cinnamon and clove. It pairs wonderfully with pork and game meats like duck and venison. It’s also wonderful with certain fruits – like pear and apple. Give it a try on a Roasted Pear Salad, with Ancient Grains, Yogurt, and Walnut. It’ll be a revelation for you!

Malabar White Peppercorns

The White Malabar Peppercorn is from the Malabar region of Southwest India. It consists solely of the seed of the ripe fruit – after the darker skin has been removed. This is accomplished by soaking the berries in water for about a week – so that the skin softens and decomposes. It’s that very soaking process that gives the White Peppercorns their distinct earthy perfume. Because of the naturally night color of the peppercorn, it pairs well with light colored sauces like hollandaise and veloute. It can also have an interesting fruity citrus kick. We crusted it on Seared Tuna paired with Quinoa, Charred Broccoli, and Tangerine. Whatever you choose, it’s going to be a hit!

Sarawak Black Peppercorns

We’ve come to the last of “The Essentials”: Black Sarawak. Sarawak is a state in Malaysia, the largest in fact. The peppercorns are grown and processed on the island of Borneo. Black Pepper is produced from the green unripe fruit of the plant. The fruits are cooked quickly in hot water before being fried for several days during which the outer skins shrink and darken into a thin, wrinkled layer. The Sarawak variety is amongst the best in the world – with a bold flavor and hints of fruit, cocoa, and woodsy spices. We sprinkled it on a beautiful whole baby eggplant – fire roasted it – and served it with Basil Quinoa, Tzatziki and Pistachio. This is not your everyday black peppercorn. But it IS a kitchen essential.



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