Everyone loves a little spice in life. A well-spiced dish can set you aglow with gustatoryanticipation and open the senses. Combined with freshness and variety, Cambodia has a plenitude of herbs and spices that offer amazing taste and health benefits! But what exactly are these herbs and spices and their health benefits? Cambodian traditional herbs and spices were designed to boost mood, alertness, and circulation. Whether it’s a wild river prawn dressed in savory herbs and flavors, a tangy hand-made curry, or slices of grilled beef with a salt-pepper-andlime
dip, you can’t lose!
In a Cambodian kitchen, you will see a riot of herbs and spices crushed, diced, ground, fresh, dried, or whole. The smell is overwhelming and simply mouthwatering.
This intense, pungent rhizome related to ginger can be blamed for many a yellow stain on clothes or kitchen counters. Did khaki come from a stained uniform after British soldiers munched on a delicious curry?
Turmeric (romii-et in Khmer) is second to none in Indian cuisine with spice, flavor and health benefits. Turmeric has a warm, bitter flavor with an often earthy aroma. It’s grated and mixed into the ubiquitous kroeung paste used in a slew of Cambodian dishes. Kroeung can be a long complex recipe.
Turmeric is a powerful ingredient in lifegiving curries, a fan-favorite of the British, and is a radical antioxidant fighter as well. Add a lot of turmeric to breathe fire into your bellows! Finish with creamy coconut to soothe the burn. Get it fresh and whole and grate it yourself. Combine with pepper for maximum benefits.
Ground or whole peppercorns add zip to any meal. On a steak or in a BloodyMary, pepper promotes alertness, aids in weight loss, and even gives relief to coughs and colds. Kampot pepper (mrej gampot) is best and known for its sharply aromatic, floral flavor, with a long, warm finish, largely due to the quartz in Kampot soil. In 2010, Kampot received a Geographical Indication (GI) brand certification, much like Swiss gruyère or Darjeeling tea.
Pepper berries have a colorful life cycle: green when young, black when dried, and red when sweet and mature. White pepper, often used in creamy sauces, is simply mild, skinned pepper seeds. As always, fresh and whole is best. Pepper spices up stir-fry crab, tender grilled squid or a juicy steak. Cambodians often make a simple poultice of salt, pepper, and splash of lime as a dip to add a zing of fresh flavor.
The Spice of Life
Freshness is unmatched, and farm to table here is the norm. If variety is the spice of life, then Cambodian herbs and spices is for you!