Identity is important for every nation because it binds its citizens together and differentiates it from others through its unique mix of foods, traditions, cultures and languages.
Food, in particular, is the part of a nation’s identity that attracts quite a bit of attention from other parts of the world if it is delicious or unique.
The main Khmer dishes that are known to other nationalities are samlor korko (mixed vegetable soup), amok (steamed fish with lemongrass and coconut milk) and prahok (salted fish paste).
However, Khmer food in the international context is mostly unknown and therefore not very popular compared to the Chinese, Japanese or Thai cuisines in Asia, or to the famous cuisines of Europe such as French or Italian.
One woman with a mission to promote Khmer food initiated the idea of creating packages of the ingredients used to cook Khmer foods to promote the tastes of Cambodian culture.
Sambath Amarak Vipassini, founder of Sabara Food Handicrafts, which makes products under the brand name “Kreung Hloung Sabara”, said that she originally owned a hotel named Sabara in Siem Reap province with a restaurant that was praised by guests for its Khmer dishes.
However, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of guests declined and she was forced to try out new business ideas.
She said that she decided to make pre-packaged mixes of the non-meat and non-perishable ingredients of foods such as amok and red curry to sell to others who can then use them to complete the dishes and get an authentic Cambodian flavouring.
She said that her main ingredients are all extracted from fresh spices so that customers get a real Khmer taste from them.
“In the market, there are only products from neighbouring countries, but curry and amok is never available. So, I want to make those ready ingredients for the convenience of our people and also to expand the market abroad,” she said.
She has been in business now for six months and is selling her ready ingredients to four Khmer dishes in markets, supermarkets and shops and has seen a lot of support from customers.
The ingredient packages are sold at a retail price of 6,000 riel each to ensure they are a reasonable price for Cambodians. The products all comply with all hygiene standards, both national and international, which she received training on from the Ministry of Industry.
She said that because her products are new to market, she and her team could use some training on marketing to get the message about them out to the target demographic who need to know about her products.
They are currently selling in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap province and in the future, she intends to make them available nationwide. After that, she intends to expand sales abroad, especially to countries that have large populations of Cambodian immigrants living there.