Cambodia, a French culinary paradise of organic and PDO produce

August 1, 2023

France has a very special, sentimental relationship with Cambodia. This is also true in the food and culinary sectors.

Cambodia holds a special place in the hearts of the French, and vice versa: “Cambodia is probably the only country in Asia where there is a real Francophile spirit based on a long historical, cultural and economic relationship. For example, the Institut Français du Cambodge has some 5,000 students,” explains Soreasmey Ke Bin, a Frenchman of Cambodian origin and CEO of Confluences, an agency that attracts French investment to Cambodia. For the French, Cambodia brings to mind Angkor Wat and its famous temples.

But Cambodia is also increasingly being identified with exceptional agricultural products. The Agence Française de Développement group identifies value-added agri-food products. It has been supporting the development of Protected Geographical Indications (PGIs) in Cambodia since 2007. To help protect them, AFD Group is supporting a project implemented by a consortium of NGOs led by GRET to develop Protected Geographical Indications to identify and protect products distinguished by their characteristics or associated know-how. Four emblematic products have been recognised in this way. In the south of the country, these are Kampot salt and pepper. Near Phnom Penh, there is palm sugar from Kampong Speu. And finally, in the mountains to the east of the country, it is the wild honey of Mondolkiri. AFD has helped to create Cambodia’s first two PGIs for palm sugar and pepper. A PGI for honey followed in 2021. This project brings together 400 to 500 honey collectors living in 11 community protected areas and collecting 35 to 40 metric tons of honey per year. Finally, Kampot/Kep sea salt has had a GI since April 2023.

Kampot pepper, Cambodia’s gastronomic ambassador

Kampot pepper, grown without fertiliser or pesticides in southern Cambodia, is considered one of the world’s best for its spicy flavour. It is found in bunches on vines that thrive in Kampot’s special soil and climate. Its cultivation flourished during the French era. At the time, Kampot pepper started to appear on great tables in the West, contributing to the popularity of pepper in general. And Cambodian pepper in particular!

Cambodia, a French culinary paradise of organic and PDO produce
Kampot pepper (Credit : Taguelmoust — CC BY-SA 3.0, wikimedia)

Kampot pepper has been available for several years now through La Plantation. This company has its own production facilities, which can be visited on tours. Over the years, the brand has developed its range of peppers and pepper derivatives, as well as chillies, dried aromatic plants, herbal teas and sauces.

Kampot pepper was the inspiration behind KHLA, the organic delicatessen from Asia and the Mekong. Kampot pepper is a real success in France and Europe.

Produced from the sap of the sugar palm, Cambodia’s emblem, Kampong Speu sugar is renowned for its aroma and light colour. Known in Cambodia as Thnot, there are more than three million trees in the tiny kingdom. The first sap and fruit are harvested after 15 years. Farmers spend six months growing rice and the other six harvesting palm sap.

Presence in Europe

Kompong Speu palm sugar is exported to France and around the world by Confirel, the first company in Cambodia to have its products certified by ECOCERT S.A. to European, American and Japanese standards. Confirel also undergoes strict quality controls in cooperation with the Pasteur Institute of Cambodia and CIRAD in France.

Cambodia, a French culinary paradise of organic and PDO produce
Confirel boutique and its brands of Kampot pepper and Kompong Speu palm sugar in Phnom Penh (Credit: LC/Cleverdis)

Confirel offers three brands: Kirum Premium, which offers a range of Kampot peppers (black, red, green and white), including infusions, sauces and vinegar. The Thnot brand uses palm sugar and is also working on a range of organic chocolates. Finally, Jaya is developing sugar palm-based spirits and wines.

Read also: Challenges faced by white pepper in Bangka Belitung, sustaining its unique legacy

Join us at SIAL Paris as exhibitor Join us at SIAL Paris as visitor