Motorcycle Trekking in Cambodia
I can’t imagine there being too many countries better than Cambodia for riding dirt bikes. Anyone who is into such things knows Cambodia has been a great destination for motorcycle tourism. The province roads and off-road trails have offered a nice little challenge to anyone willing to tackle them.
But don’t worry, if it's a trail riding challenge you seek in Cambodia, you won’t have to stray too far off the beaten path.
Mini Dirt Bike Ride up Mount Kirivong
I had been planning on taking follow-up pictures of a 'haunted' house in town that had been riddled with bullet holes; a relic from the Khmer Rouge period. Maybe not coincidentally, the house shares a plot of land with the local police depot. So the two of us pulled into the depot with our cameras in hand.
We were greeted by some policemen lounging in hammocks (you won’t find an over-zealous police department in rural Cambodia). One kind fellow pointed us in the direction of the hidden trail that goes to the peak of Mt. Kirivong. I was so happy to finally find the trail to the top that I decided to shift focus. The Khmer Rouge relic follow-up photos would have to wait: An unplanned trip up the mountain beckoned us.
You generally find one of two things at the top of a mountain trail in Cambodia: Buddha shrines or radio towers. we were greeted by the latter. The only sign of life: a lonely gentleman standing guard, confused by the sight of my pale face in such a remote place. Imagine the monotony of working security for a radio tower on a small mountain!
After we snapped some photos we made our way back down the sandy trail.
It was a pleasant, mildly challenging round-trip ride. However, I would be lying if I claimed we survived without incident. We didn't exactly fall off the mountain, but... you can check the video.
At the end of the day I was happy to scratch this Kirivong activity off the to-do list. Too tired for a photo shoot of the 'haunted' Khmer Rouge house, we headed home. My amateur documentary efforts were delayed till another day.
Spicelight: Long Pepper
Back from the brink of culinary extinction, long pepper takes the spicelight.
Long pepper, Piper longum, is the sweeter and spicier cousin of the black peppercorn you already know and love. It was once the most popular pepper of the Romans, but was usurped by standard black pepper and has since faded into obscurity in the western world. The flavor of long pepper is hot, with hints of cinnamon and a sweet woody undertone.
Its long slender body and pineapple-like skin may raise an eyebrow. This is the latest stage of a catkin, a spike or cone of flowers. Those flowers turn into densely clustered berries that form the shape of the long pepper.
Long pepper grows on a tall vine just like its more common peppercorn cousin. When the fruit ripens, turning a red-orange color, it is picked by hand and dried in the sun.
Our long peppers come from a small family farm in the Takéo province of southern Cambodia, called Kiri Farms. The Takéo province borders the Kampot region, where some of the finest black peppercorns in the world are grown. They have been growing long pepper for over two decades, keeping it in stock for spice connoisseurs who appreciate it.
“It was a profitable plant for the region to grow about 25 years ago,” says Steve Miller, proprietor of Kiri Farms. “Many families stopped growing it when it became less profitable but our family is one of the few farms which has lasted this long.”
Steve actually prefers using the fresh, green pepper in his cooking.“I like the fresh green long pepper which can be used in a similar way to a vegetable. It’s a bit remarkable because it has a wonderfully complex flavor with the texture of a vegetable and the heat of pepper. So we use it in stir fried dishes and you can use it in steak sauce.”
On the Kiri Farms blog you will find many traditional Cambodian recipes for using long pepper. They have a neat recipe video for making authentic Khmer curry. Note that the recipe specifically says, “Do NOT substitute regular black pepper.”
The easiest way to use long pepper is in place of black pepper. Try it on a steak or hamburger. You can snap the catkin into smaller bits and feed it right into a pepper mill. You can also throw the whole spikes into a cooking dish, stew or pickle brine. Although snapping it first will release the flavor faster.
While black pepper and long pepper are cousins, they still have their unique flavor profiles. Long pepper is noticeably hotter than black, black pepper burns while long pepper tingles.
The first time I tried this spice I was suffering from a slight cold. I snapped a few fingers of long pepper into smaller chunks and dropped them into my pepper mill. I cracked the mill three or four times over a bowl of simple chicken and vegetable soup. At first slurp I immediately detected the sweet heat on my compromised palette. I consumed an excessive amount of long pepper that night. The warm soup and the tingle on my tongue brought new life into my body, and inspiration into my stomach.
Since then I’ve been enjoying swapping long pepper in place of black pepper in much of my cooking: Over my eggs in the morning, adding it to our curry blends, cracking over my salads, and adding it to my homemade pickles.
Below you will find a fun and simple recipe for strawberry and fennel salad, featuring long pepper. The sweet, juicy strawberries and the heat of the long pepper make for an interesting and yummy flavor profile. The small bits of crushed long pepper pop and crunch in your mouth. Creamy feta mellows out the pepper tingle, and the onions and fennel keep the dish crisp and light. This dish would pair nicely with some grilled fish and white wine.
Strawberry-Fennel Salad with Long Pepper
Strawberries – quartered or shingled.
Fennel – julienne
Red onion – julienne
Feta – cubed (whatever kind you like! I used Greek.)
French grey sea salt – to taste
Long pepper, freshly ground – modest to moderate sprinkling
1 part wildflower honey
1 part fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 part extra virgin olive oil
Whisk dressing ingredients together until evenly dissolved.
Tip: use the lemon juice to dissolve the honey before you add the olive oil.
(optional-add a spot of Dijon mustard as an emulsifier)
Lightly toss onions and fennel in the dressing.
Plate in a shallow a bowl, topping with strawberries, and feta.
Season with sea salt and good amount of fresh cracked long pepper.
Garnish with fennel leaves and enjoy!
Photos of green and ripe long pepper courtesy of Kiri Farms.
Coin Cafe & Bar has a new menu, a new bar, and a new projector with 160" screen. Come celebrate with $2.50 cocktails and $.75 beer (Beer Laos, Cambodia, Angkor, and Anchor). Live music from Pavel (Zargz!) will commence in the early evening. Contact Coin Cafe & Bar for more information (see below).
Coin Cafe & Bar is on Google Maps. You can call them to make a delivery in the Tuol Sleng area, 077.253.598, or choose one of these delivery services to place an order, Nham24 and Your Phnom Penh,
See you at the party!
Authentic Khmer Curry Recipe and Cooking Instructions
This article will explain how to make authentic Khmer curry (Cambodian curry). It is a fun challenge if you can locate the ingredients or equivalent substitutes. Some of the ingredients are not easily found outside of Cambodia. But don't be discouraged, this dish is well worth the effort.
Please note that the measurements listed below are approximate and the instructions inexact. No one uses measuring devices in authentic Khmer cooking. The instructions written below coupled with the accompanying video should get you close to the authentic style, but don't be afraid to experiment. Have fun!
Chicken Curry Ingredients:
1.5 kilos salted chicken, chopped with bones (the bones add flavor)
1.5 kilos coconut milk (fresh if possible)
2.5 grams palm sugar (skor tnot)
1 gram ground long pepper (optional. Do NOT substitute regular black pepper)
1 gram bouillon powder (soup seasoning )
.5 grams curry powder (or substitute star anise. See notes below)
1 gram dried red chili peppers, seeds removed (for chili paste. See notes below)
Chopped carrots, potatoes, white onions, & green beans
Curry Paste Ingredients:
2 fingers of turmeric
6 kaffir leaves
2 Thai red onions
1 whole garlic bulb
6 lemongrass sticks
1 yellow galangal root (see video/pictures for scale)
Important Notes on Khmer Curry Preparation
Curry Powder: We use half a packet of Vianco curry powder mixture in the video. The mass of a full packet of powder is 1 gram when weighed, despite what the packaging says.
You can consider using star anise in place of the curry powder. Star anise is regularly used in the local Cambodian recipe. Some guesswork is required on the number of seedpods to add.
Chili paste preparation: Choose large Thai chilies (or some equivalent). They should be relatively mild and not overwhelm the dish with heat. In Cambodia, whole (seeds removed), dried chili peppers can be purchased at the market by the gram. The chilies are soaked in water until soft (usually a few hours). Once they reach a consistency appropriate for a paste, they are crushed using a mortar and pestle. The resulting paste is what you see in the video and pictures below.
Vegan & Vegetarian Curry Option: This recipe can be followed to make vegan curry when the chicken is left out or replaced with an appropriate substitute.
Khmer Curry Cooking Instructions:
For the curry paste, prepare the turmeric, kaffir leaves, red onion, garlic, lemongrass, and yellow galangal to be crushed. Combine the ingredients in a mortar and pestle and crush to a paste.
Reduce a cup of coconut milk over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the curry paste to create a thick sauce. Mix in the chili paste and palm sugar until consistent. Add the bouillon powder, long pepper, and curry powder. Thin the sauce with coconut milk as needed (too much coconut milk will limit the amount of flavor that the chicken can absorb). Add the chicken and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Add thick chunks of carrots/potatoes and the remaining coconut milk. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Uncover and add onions and beans. Bring to a boil until vegetables are of a good texture. Turn off the heat and let cool for 20 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
View our khmer curry video above for a demonstration of how it's done. Good luck and happy cooking!
Buy & Sell Bitcoin at Phnom Penh's Coin Cafe & Bar
Delicious Khmer Food and Western Cuisine
Since 2014, Coin Cafe & Bar has been serving the best Khmer and Western food in Tuol Sleng district (BKK3).
When you call us, ask if the pepper from Kiri Farms is in season and request one of the long pepper dishes.
See the menu above and call to place a delivery order. You can also choose one of the popular delivery services who have partnered with us by clicking their respective links here:
Your Phnom Penh
Check out the picture gallery. We hope to see you soon!
The Best Khmer and Western Food in BKK3
[The full recipe and video instructions are here]
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!)
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 & Bar 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 was lying 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 tragic past, it has since been "renovated".... but not before I was able to snap some pictures.
To be continued.
Cambodian Pepper Farm Tour in Pictures
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. We discuss why long pepper spices are a premium spice option and give some background on our farm.
You can read the properly formatted interview with pictures in its entirety published in the interactive magazine here. Otherwise, see below for our republished 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 Menger, 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
Buy Premium Pepper Spices in Phnom Penh
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. It is known to chefs as a premium spice and also used by traditional medicine practitioners (Ayurvedic & Chinese medicine). In fact, the majority of sales we make at Kiri Farms go to merchants who process it for use as traditional 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 The Spicehouse to order our goods. From the EU, you can contact one of our partner distributors in France and Germany. Click our Contact page to find the links for those and other options.
If you are in Cambodia, your best option to buy long pepper is at the humble Coin Cafe & Bar 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.
Here is a cool video we made about making scarves the old-fashioned way in Cambodia from Koh Dach (Silk Island). The island is 30 minutes from Phnom Penh and is a place where they produce a lot of traditional silk products. Silk and pepper are 2 products most commonly credited with supporting traditional Cambodian lifestyles.
Welcome to Coin Cafe in Phnom Penh! Our humble cafe, hidden in the backstreets of Tuol Sleng neighborhood, serves excellent Western and AUTHENTIC Khmer cuisine. High praise goes to our proprietor and chief culinary officer who has spent the majority of her life in a kitchen.
Coin Cafe was begun with the intention of promoting all things Khmer, particularly Khmer foods and retail products. Unfortunately, domestic industries in Cambodia are still struggling to compete with foreign markets. This is especially true in the food industry, where most raw goods are exported for processing before being imported again for consumption. It's so bad, in fact, that Khmer consumers themselves consider foods processed within Cambodia to be inferior to those processed elsewhere.
Now, enter Kiri Farms pepper. The same family who brought you Coin Cafe in Phnom Penh has been cultivating pepper for the last 2 decades in Takeo Province. Our pepper farm covers approximately 2 hectares, located in the district of Kirivong, sandwiched between Kampot province and the country of Vietnam. The Kampot border is a mere 6 kilometers away and exporters from that province typically use our pepper to fill their orders. Our mission at Kiri Farms is to create a market for Takeo pepper on its own, particularly for the criminally unrecognized 'long pepper' variety in which we specialize. Naturally, you can come taste our pepper at our Phnom Penh eatery before taking some home with you.
Have a look at some pictures of the products we support in the gallery below and please get in touch with us for more information. We want to support Cambodia any way that we can.
Here is a concise video with background on long pepper. The market for this spice is much smaller than it deserves to be, so it's always exciting to discover others attempting to popularize it.
See our contact page to get in touch with us in Cambodia.
Please go like our facebook page here.
And check out our youtube videos here.
Have a nice day!
Please watch our introductory video to our long pepper farm in Takeo, Cambodia! Kiri Farms sells whole and processed long pepper spices. Contact us for more information and please comment on the video!
At 6 PM on Tuesday, January 26th, 2016 we will host the launch party for Kiri Farms' long pepper products at Coin Cafe in Tuol Sleng area. Plenty of long pepper steak (Australian steak) samples will be on-hand for a tasting as well as a big bowl of fresh long pepper dip for vegetables and french fries. Burgers, beer, and other refreshments will be available for purchase at reasonable prices. See our flyer below.
Directions to Coin Cafe: Drive down Street 360 away from the riverside. Cross over Monivong Boulevard. Cross over Street 95. Turn RIGHT into the alley next to the car wash. We are in the alley.
RSVP to the event on Facebook here.
Check out our Facebook page, "kirifarms."
See our Youtube videos here.
Please leave your comments and questions at the bottom!
Learn how to make an easy and delicious steak with Long Pepper!
EST. TIME: 20 minutes
Plate the steak and serve with cream sauce on the side, or drizzle the sauce over the top of the steak. Serve with steamed, fresh vegetables and enjoy!
Let us know about your experience in the comments below.
Kiri Farms Blog
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