[The recipe is coming soon!]
Look closely at the pictures below.
They show the ingredients used to make curry in Cambodia. Can you name them all without checking the answers at the bottom?
There are 17 unique ingredients shown in the 3 pictures below.
-1st Generation Coconut Milk
-Curry Powder (the small bag)
-Lemon Grass Paste (ingredients shown in picture 2)
-Ground Long Pepper from Kiri Farms (the most important ingredient, of course!)
Additional ingredients needed but not shown:
-2nd Generation Coconut Milk (Processed twice. Both kinds are needed at different stages of cooking)
How many ingredients did you guess correctly?
So, here they are in no particular order:
THE BEST BITCOIN WALLETS IN 2017 - Learn how to store your bitcoin
STAY SAFE ONLINE, PART 1: USE A VPN - Guide to using VPN with emphasis on Bitcoin use
EXODUS BLOCKCHAIN ASSET WALLET – A REVIEW - In praise of Exodus
GET BITCOIN IN 60 MINUTES OR LESS - How to acquire Bitcoin in Cambodia
BUY BITCOIN IN CAMBODIA, PART 2
BUY BITCOIN IN CAMBODIA, PART 3
BRAVE NEW MONKEY - Mekongmonkey website information
STEEMIT: SOCIAL MEDIA MEETS CRYPTOCURRENCY - In praise of Steem cryptocurrency
POSTCARD FROM KAMPONG CHHNANG - Nice pictures from Konkee hometown
ETHEREUM FOR BEGINNERS - Learn about Ethereum
THE VISITORS GUIDE TO KAMPONG CHHNANG - Info on Konkee hometown
BITCOIN BOOKS - Bitcoin book reviews
Have a poke around at www.mekongmonkey.com where you will discover a lot more content and resources about all things Cambodia and Bitcoin.
And don't forget to peruse the blog and Facebook and Youtube pages from Kiri Farms, or come visit us at Coin Cafe at the location below. Have fun!
There are lots of traffic laws in Cambodia but the only two that matter are unwritten. They are: Don't hit anything, and don't get hit. Disobeying formal laws can get you extorted by the police for a few dollars. Disobeying the unwritten laws can get you killed. Such was the sad reality that played out moments before I arrived to the scene on National Highway #2 in Cambodia, where a man laid dead in the middle of the road.
I hadn't been to the pepper farm in about 6 months and being that it's only a 3 hour ride I made it my first since acquiring a new (actually, well-used) 600cc dirtbike from my friend. I'd barely gotten it out of 3rd gear motoring around Phnom Penh before this, my first long-distance ride, so it was nice to have a bit of fun. The odometer goes up to 180 km/hr. I only managed to make it up to 120 on the highway before that needling feeling of, well, your passenger pinching your side to broadcast her fear.
It felt good letting 'er rip for a moment on newly paved Cambodian highway. National Highway #2 takes you all the way to the Vietnamese border and they've done tons of work on it in the last 5 years. The only remaining portion to be completed is about 5 minutes outside the city, past the immaculate (by Cambodian standards) Steung Meanchey bridge.
It was sad seeing that poor guy shortly after he met his fate. I wanted to do something about it.
"What do we do next time we see something like that?" I asked my girlfriend when we stopped for coffee, referring to the carnage I delicately maneuvered around only moments prior. "Cambodia have a number for call when like that. Everyone know," she said. "Great, what's the number?" I enquired. "I don't know," she said.
A member of our party who left after us reported an hour later that the man was still dead when they had gotten to that point, a sheet covering his head, his remains positioned out of the way of traffic.
Generally speaking, traffic flows well in Cambodia; certainly better than most "Road-safety NGOs" would have you believe. More laws against reckless driving would do as much to end road fatalities as more murder laws would do to end murder. Believe it or not, over 30,000 citizens die every year on the national highway system in the United States of Laws.
Cambodian driving will improve with time in spite of what politicians write on paper.
Cambodia is experiencing an adjustment period and the spike in fatal road incidents shouldn't come as a surprise. I would be willing to bet there is more than double as much cement covering the surface of this country than there was 5 years ago. It used to be that potholes large enough to swallow whole cars would act as a deterrent to reckless driving. But with so much new and smooth pavement people are driving faster and more carelessly. Other factors contributing to the road-fatality rate include hyperbolic car ownership numbers and a general boom in economic activity.
Regardless of the road hazards, the Cambodian countryside is really something special and worth the risk of exploring on a dirt bike. If you talk to any Khmer who grew up in the province they will often romanticize their pre-Phnom Penh days. "I loved growing up poor in the country," they'll say, and usually add something like, "But I wouldn't want to do it again."
The village I was visiting was Kirivong in Takeo province, very near the Vietnam border, home to our long pepper farm. I uncovered an interesting piece of forgotten history, a footnote to Cambodia's Khmer Rouge period, right in the back yard of our pepper farm. Like most of Cambodia's recent ugly past, it has since been "renovated".... but not before I was able to snap some pictures.
To be continued.
We recently visited Kiri Farms in Takeo Province, Cambodia. Here is a slideshow of our journey with lots of details on pepper farming and life as a farmer in the province of Cambodia. Enjoy!
We were interviewed recently by Food Pacific Manufacturing Journal, an Internet publication specializing in regional food trade affairs.
You can read the properly formatted interview with pictures in its entirety published in the interactive magazine here. Otherwise, see below for the excerpted version. Enjoy!
Spicing up the food chain
Long Pepper is known for its medicinal benefits including improving appetite and digestion, as well as relieving insomnia and headache. Kiri Farms’s proprietor Steve Merger, however, is raising awareness for its culinary value in Cambodia and beyond. He speaks to Food Pacific Manufacturing Journal about long pepper’s unique flavor and uses, and his company’s efforts to grow its popularity and reach.
How long has Kiri Farms been in existence and where exactly is it located?
Kiri Farms is a family owned and operated pepper farm in Kirivong District, Takeo Province, Cambodia. We are six kilometers from the Kampot border, a province internationally recognized for producing the best pepper in the world. Our first trees were planted 20 years ago, and that crop is still going strong. However, about half of the living crop today was seeded within the last five years.
What makes it ideal to grow long pepper in Cambodia?
Climate and soil. Every rainy season, the small mountains that dot this region replenish the soil at their bases with the kind of minerals most conducive to growing great pepper. That is why you find pepper farms such as ours hiding away in foothills.
How is long pepper different from black pepper? What are its main uses and benefits?
Long pepper's flavor is more complex. Using our imagination to describe it, start with the familiar flavor of round pepper and temper the sting. Long pepper will not overwhelm you. Now add the sweet and floral qualities that distinguish Kampot pepper, but in greater measure. Long pepper is more citrusy than round pepper, especially when eaten fresh, and it leaves a cool finish on your tongue. Notes of cinnamon and nutmeg put the finishing touch on a totally unique and under-appreciated spice. Surprisingly, in spite of its complexity, long pepper maintains the universal applicability of your average table-top pepper.
The fresh green long pepper can be chopped up and used in stir-fried dishes. It can be pureed or minced for inclusion in meat sauces, vegetable dips or salad dressings. Whole dried catkins meanwhile, can be used in marinades and roasts. They can be used in vegetable pickling or allowed to steep in soups.
Long pepper is also used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. It is said to improve appetite and digestion, as well as treat a catalog of stomach and intestinal issues.
What variety of long pepper does Kiri Farms produce?
Piper Retrofractum is the long pepper species that we grow, a cousin to the more common round pepper species, Piper Nigrum, which we also grow at Kiri Farms.
Could you tell us about the farming method you employ? How does this contribute to the quality of yield?
The farming method we use is traditional agriculture, which is labor intensive. Currently, no machines are (or have been) used for cultivation, maintenance, harvesting, sorting, etc. Even tilling the soil is done with hoes.
New trees are produced from cuttings of old ones. The vines climb up wooden poles with about three meters of exposure above ground. Harvesting occurs for about six months of the year coinciding approximately with the rainy season, from August until February. We tap the well-water on our property during stretches of no rain. Cow manure is used to fertilize the plants once or twice a year, and earth from nearer the mountain is used to replenish the soil at least annually as well. This is not a small task since the earth must be manually collected using buckets and then carried to the farm.
What about the harvesting, drying and processing methods employed?
Harvesting is straightforward. Long pepper spikes are individually hand-picked off the vine and readied for drying.
Fresh pepper spikes are blanched before being spread out on nets to be dried in the sun. It takes about five days of full sunlight for them to completely dry.
A portion of the crop is shipped to Phnom Penh for further processing where it is milled and bottled to be sold in retail form. This is done at our cafe, where we serve dishes prepared with the long pepper products we sell.
Where and how do you currently market your products?
There is a farmer's market in Phnom Penh held weekly at Farm to Table. That has been a good opportunity for us to gain some exposure locally. Unlike black pepper, the uses of which are universally understood, long pepper is a virtually unknown spice at the moment, so we are faced with the challenge of educating our potential customers. The farmer's market is well-attended and gives us an enjoyable setting in which to do that.
The bulk of our sales goes to middlemen who trawl the neighborhood farms to fill large orders as they come in from China and Vietnam. Many tons of pepper are annually hauled off the farms in our district and exported to companies in those countries who mostly process it for consumption as Chinese medicine. Additionally, a portion of our annual sales makes its way to Kampot pepper merchants, who use more rigorous processing and packaging methods before exporting it as a spice.
Our products are likewise available on eBay and Etsy in the US.
We hope to extend our reach to Germany and are currently working with an agent to fulfill orders for some 500kg of pepper. Ultimately we want to work directly with international customers as we are wholly capable of filling orders ourselves from a technical, procedural and logistical standpoint.
In what forms can buyers order your long pepper? Do they carry the Kiri Farms brand?
Our long pepper comes in four forms. For whole pepper, we have both the fresh, green and red spikes, and the sun-dried spikes. We likewise have the milled (coarse) type and the finely ground.
Our retail products sold in glass jars carry the Kiri Farms branding. The rest are packaged and branded to customer’s preference.
Is there a minimum order that you require?
No. Small retail orders can be filled from our staging points in Australia, the US and the UK.
What is the turn-around time for delivery?
This depends on the location of the buyer, whether the product is in stock or in season, and other logistical factors.
Company: Kiri Farms
A: #5D, Street 360
Sangkat Boeung Keng Kang 3, Khan Chamkarmon
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
T: +855 (0) 92 664 557
The culinary world is slowly rediscovering long pepper and we are just happy to be a part of it. However, the market for this spice remains very niche, limited to in-the-know chefs and Ayurvedic/Chinese medicine practitioners. In fact, the majority of sales we make at Kiri Farms go to merchants who process it for use as medicine (for more on medicinal uses, you can check WebMD!).
To purchase long pepper from Kiri Farms you have several options. From the USA, you can use eBay or Etsy to order our goods. Click our 'Contact' page above to find the links for those websites. From the EU, you can contact one of our partner distributors in Ireland and Germany. And If you are in Cambodia, the best place to buy our goods is at the humble Coin Cafe in Tuol Sleng neighborhood.
Of course, if you have any questions at all then we are eager to answer them. Please send us an e-mail!
As we discussed in a previous article, the cost of living is low in Cambodia.
This is one of the freest markets in the world when it comes to small businesses. The government simply doesn't have the sophistication or desire to enforce obtrusive regulations on the little guys. It's only when you start making real money that someone will come knocking, and even that can be less worrisome than it sounds.
Phnom Penh is a place which compels entrepreneurship from residents. Anyone with a ground floor apartment is a business owner, almost by default, so the place is saturated with small, usually family-owned businesses, including our cafe. The cafe would not be financially sound were it not for the fact that we make it our home in order to save on rent.
Previously, we saw how this highly competitive, mostly free market is the catalyst for tight margins and low consumer goods prices. Here, I'd like to go into a bit greater detail on the general cost of living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, one of the most efficient markets in the world.
At one point recently, Cambodia had the highest mobile subscription rate per capita in the world. The telecom market has been one of Cambodia's most fiercely competitive since its nascent days when it seemed like new mobile and internet providers were springing up every week. Eventually, cries from observers began ringing the hollow refrain, "there is too much competition," and the government responded by introducing a regulatory scheme and fixing prices. The industry experienced a period of consolidation shortly thereafter and now it is rare for new players to enter the scene.
On the bright side, Cambodian phone companies don't currently require you to sign a contract, and phones are not 'locked', which means you are free to buy whatever phone you like and use it with any provider by purchasing their sim card. Your sim can then be 'topped up' with a scratch card from your provider, sold everywhere in Cambodia. I can't imagine there being a more fluid market than that for mobile phones, phone cards, and data plans. Phone sellers and re-sellers are everywhere, and pretty much every retail shop in the country has phone cards for sale if you need to top-up your sim.
Prices for internet access are reasonable in Cambodia. At our cafe we pay $75 for 6 months of wired connectivity including equipment rentals and good bandwidth. Some mobile internet plans start at $5 per month at not-too-bad speeds in Phnom Penh, and wireless and 3G coverage in the province is surprisingly good in many places.
Gasoline prices in The Kingdom are a bit higher than average, recently running about $0.80 per liter ($3 per gallon). That's nothing to complain about considering Cambodia produces no petroleum domestically. Major Gulf of Thailand drilling plans fell out of the news last year after Chevron sold its stake in a Cambodian-controlled bloc, so don't expect Cambodian gas production to outperform global averages any time soon.
Cambodia has been experiencing a steady increase in electricity consumption for quite some time. Just five years ago there were hardly any power lines in the countryside, but now don't be surprised to find most places on the grid.
A large chunk of what gets consumed in Cambodia is supplied from neighboring countries like Vietnam. However, In the last few years Chinese companies have completed several major hydro-electric projects in Cambodia, helping to alleviate the demand. In fact, the electrical grid has suddenly become stable in Cambodia when contrasted with the frequent rolling blackouts of just a few years ago.
Electricity prices, as might be expected, are slightly higher than regional averages. We pay $0.25 per kilowatt-hour, but it can cost less depending on where you live in Phnom Penh. At our house in Takeo province we pay $0.30/kwh.
Cheap prices are only half the story in Phnom Penh. The other half is convenience. Imagine living in a city where everything you need is right around the corner from you, regardless of where you are. Recently, I had some leather dress shoes tailored for $25 and the hardest part was deciding which of the several shoe-makers to choose in our neighborhood. When I tore my dress pants, I took them to a tailor one street over and had 3 pairs cloned for a total of $55.
If you buy your clothes off the shelf then you'll have no trouble finding a retail store near you, not to mention the many open-air markets in town, each with dozens of clothing stalls. Name-brand outlets are all over Phnom Penh (don't ask me if they're legitimate) and there are several western style malls dotting the city, as well. From a simple man's perspective you won't have trouble finding anything you need.
It's true that Cambodia is not a place where you should go for major medical procedures, but things are changing and the day will come when that is no longer true. In the meantime, neighboring Thailand is a popular destination for medical tourism and Vietnam is loaded with quality doctors as well. As for most medical necessities, however, you could do a lot worse than Cambodia. I recently went to the emergency room to get about 10 stitches and the total cost was $25; no lines, no paperwork, paid cash, out in no time. Try and beat that.
I'll give you some more perspective on how out-of-control prices for basic services have gotten in the West. In Phnom Penh it costs $10 to get your teeth cleaned - no insurance, no appointments. $10 is less than the insurance copay in the USA. But we're not talking about some back alley operation here. I walked in on a weekday with my girlfriend recently and we were serviced immediately, each with a dentist and an assistant, in a clean, westernized, sanitary environment. You really could not tell the difference between the procedure here and what you would encounter in the West except for the lack of bureaucracy and waiting. And, oh yeah, there are 3 dental clinics within a block of our cafe.
Need a pharmacy? They are everywhere, too. Not only are the prices for generic medicines extremely cheap, you don't need a prescription to get what you need.
One last note, my friend had crossed eyes since birth so I volunteered to pay for his corrective eye-surgery. It cost me less than $150 for the procedure including the several follow-up visits. The ophthalmologist did excellent work and, of course, insurance was not required.
There is very little that has me concerned in terms of basic medical care in Phnom Penh. Just don't expect to find me booking an appointment for bypass surgery here if I need it.
In closing, here are a few brief examples of cheap prices in Phnom Penh. All of these things can be found within 1 block of our cafe:
You can achieve a quality of life in Cambodia very close to what you're accustomed to from the West for much less money and with greater convenience. An entrepreneurial society and a lightly regulated economy keep margins tight and prices low. This is great news for consumers, but not the greatest news for cafe owners!
Kiri Farms was recently invited to participate in a new, weekly farmer's market in Phnom Penh, held right down the street from us at the immensely popular eatery, Farm to Table. The event does not disappoint, drawing hundreds of guests in the two weeks since we began participating. Vendors number approximately twenty, offering locally produced goods like rice, pepper, fruits, vegetables, teas, and plenty more. Live musicians play while guests enjoy the serene atmosphere and family setting afforded by the outdoorsy venue. Check out our video below and click the links above for more information.
Being that these are informal, 1-hour lessons, prospective attendees are requested to wear comfortable clothing, and leave their headdress, crown, and kong ngor at home.
Further inquiries may be made to Coin Cafe whose information can be found on Facebook.
Let's talk about food prices in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It's cheap living, but let me give you some background before we dive in. I run a few small businesses including a cafe and a pepper farm. In the six years since I moved to Cambodia the exchange rate hasn't budged, staying around 1 US Dollar to 4000 Cambodian Riel the whole time. US Dollars are accepted everywhere in Cambodia (and often preferred) thus simplifying our discussion of prices.
Cambodia is a place where consumers are highly sensitive to prices. Combine that with low barriers to entry for businesses and a highly entrepreneurial society and what you get is a very efficient system of price-discovery for any given good or service. This means that profit margins are razor thin. That has been my experience with my cafe, where our customers would balk were we to raise drink prices by as little as a nickle. So let me give you an idea of exactly how thin those margins can be from my experience with Coin Cafe.
We sell a cup of coffee for 2000 Riel (That's 50 cents, but coins do not circulate so Riel notes are required for amounts under $1). Sounds cheap, right? Well, there is a girl with a stand around the corner from us who sells it for 1000 Riel. There must be a dozen places that sell coffee within 3 blocks of us, and that would be true for any given location in Phnom Penh. It's the Wild West of cafes!
Coffee is cheap, especially in South-East Asia where Vietnam is the world's second largest exporter. The primary growing regions in Cambodia, the mountainous provinces bordering Vietnam, Mondulkiri and Rattanakiri, have not enjoyed nearly the same renown as their neighbor. Having sampled several of the local brews on a recent trip to Mondulkiri I can tell you it is not for lack of quality. Vietnamese brand coffee beans, in spite of traveling across borders, enjoy greater penetration at coffee shops across Cambodia than the domestic stuff. The reasons for this anomaly are many, but let's just say the Cambodian coffee market, like most other domestic food production, is light-years behind the more mature markets of neighboring countries. Significantly more capital and expertise will be required before Cambodia can reach it's potential.
In keeping with the theme at our cafe of selling Cambodian products, we offer coffee produced in Rattanakiri Province, the Northeastern-most region of Cambodia. 500 gram bags are $4 at Coin Cafe or you can visit the retailer, Cafe Nation Shop near O'Russei Market, and pick up a bag for $2.50.
Do you want fresh milk with your coffee? Well, that's a problem. All the dairy in Cambodia is imported from neighboring countries and a 2-liter jug of milk (half a gallon) will run you $4.30 from the supermarket. That's expensive enough to preclude most eateries from keeping it on-hand, especially smaller places like ours. Instead, we use condensed, sweetened milk which is ubiquitous in Cambodia for it's longer shelf-life and cheaper price. I'll admit that iced coffee with sweet milk can be a delicious treat but it troubles me that there is such a small market for the real deal, especially in largely agrarian Cambodia.
Until recently, Cambodia has lacked the expertise to produce domestic dairy products at a commercial level. However, I'm excited to report that a new dairy farm has recently sprung up on the outskirts of Phnom Penh and is poised to take the city by storm. I've walked the facility and tested the milk and, in my opinion, it is outstanding. The company is still in its nascent stage, limiting distribution and marketing until the details have been ironed out. In the meantime, we sell it at the cafe for $2.50 per liter. Get more information on the farm or order some for yourself by visiting www.khmerfreshmilk.com.
Beer, our best seller at the cafe, and probably all of Cambodia at large, sells for 2500 Riel. That's right, a mere 63 cents will get you a can of the local brew and our lovely staff will even open it for you, free of charge! We buy a case (24 cans) for $13. Do some math and that's $2 profit per case. We have to sell 24 cans of beer just to make $2, and that is BEFORE subtracting expenses! That sounds like a great deal for the consumer, right? Not so fast. If you are the average Khmer person (Khmer, the ethnicity of most Cambodian people), what is stopping you from buying a case yourself, or buying single beers from the convenience store for slightly less? The street where we operate is packed with cheap alternatives, and most people are outside drinking with friends and family anyway (public drinking laws? Not here).
I have to mention that there are at least a dozen breweries that have come online in the last 5 years. Remember how regulations are low, margins are tight, and society is entrepreneurial in Cambodia? Those factors are at play in the beer market. And now, believe it or not, these factors have spilled over into the budding, craft brewing scene. You heard right, home-brew distilleries are popping up in Cambodia and many are flying under the radar. While distributing menus for my cafe in Tuol Sleng neighborhood I stumbled on one such operation whose first batch will be ready this week! Believe me, these guys know what they're doing. More about them can be found here.
Let me tell you a bit about cost-effectiveness in Cambodia. Our menu is packed with delicious dishes whose ingredients we keep tucked away in our fridge. But we couldn't possibly maintain an inventory for all those sumptuous delights on-hand at all times because food spoils and we do not do enough volume to justify it. If you were to order, say, mushroom-cream steak, chances are we probably don't have the mushrooms, the creamer or even the steak available on-hand. No problem, we simply fire up the motorbike and go to one of the many markets nearby. The cost to you for this guaranteed freshness wouldn't exceed 5 minutes. Isn't that neat? This is how things work in Cambodia: take the moment as it comes.
Steak is the priciest dish we offer. In Cambodia, all of the good beef is imported. We buy Australian beef at $14.50 per kilo of "oyster blade". The domestic beef industry consists mostly of family operations doing their butchering in open-air market stalls. The meat is often tough and stringy but passable when cut into small pieces for stir-fry or BBQ. So you won't hear many locals complaining about poor quality steak right now because that's not how they usually eat their beef. And believe me, they eat plenty of it. One of the best and most ubiquitous pieces of local nightlife comes from beer gardens. You can't spit outside the tourist areas without hitting one. You can get a big plate of BBQ beef (with rice of course) and a pitcher of beer for $4. What else could you want?
Cambodia isn't all coffee and beer. In a follow-up piece I'll discuss some of the other non-food prices in the neighborhood, like energy and entertainment. The sky is the limit for this country, let's hope the cost of living doesn't follow suit.
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