Bluegrass Bills explore Cambodia

Bluegrass Bills are known for their hearty southern food, but where do they get their inspiration? Travelling the world of course! First America and now Cambodia. Founder Billy Rose shares everything he has discovered with Pearl & Pear.

We’ve seen that recently you’ve been travelling again… tell us more about your trip and the places you visited.

This time we did a 3 week backpack loop around Cambodia. It was a tour of two halves. The first half being cities, towns and the jungle and then we jumped across the water to the paradise picturesque islands that sit off the mainland. A great mix of exploring and relaxation.

If you can choose… what was your favourite place, and favourite food?

One of the places that really stood out for me was the Kep Province, near the popular hippy town of Kampot. It is a small town on the coast famous for it’s Crab market, which happens every morning. It is a fantastic bustling market with huge amounts of seafood. Octopus, squid, prawns, crabs and fish. You walk through and all you can hear is the old Cambodia ladies shouting and trying to barter.

At the end of the market they have big holes in ground with a fire pit inside. Every 5 minutes they take a massive blackened pot off the heat and it is filled with steamed gorgeous king prawns or Kep crabs. It doesn’t get fresher than that. We saved ourselves and headed to one of the 12 mini cafes that run along the market to eat exactly that. King prawns, a lot of crab and multiple cold beers – with an ocean view!

All it all sounds so delicious, has this created some big changes for the Bluegrass Bills menu?

It has certainly given me inspiration. I have always wanted to add shrimp, prawns and crab to the menu. When catering for large groups however it’s a little tricky to offer this in bulk on their own. However, we think we have the perfect mix. We are looking at adding it to our menu in the form of a ‘low country boil’.  A huge pot of tasty easy to eat food boiled in stages and spread openly over newspaper on a table, topped off with old bay seasoning. Such great party food and an awesome way to eat al fresco!

Have you learnt new kitchen tricks or cooking techniques?

We went to a cooking class by a lake one day and learnt how to make the worlds best Thai curry using only the finest raw ingredients and a Mortar & Pestle. We even made our own coconut milk. It’s amazing how much further spices and raw ingredients will go when crushed to a paste. I mean it’s pretty easy to make curry back home what with all the ready mixed pastes the supermarkets have, but it tastes soo much better when it is 100% made from scratch by your own bare hands.

What will be your showcasing dishes based on your new experience?

I make a mean Thai curry these days as a result but that’s not too southern, like the Bluegrass Bills style. It has inspired me to work on my Gumbo, which is a real personal dish that everyone claims they have the best ‘hand me down’ recipes from their Grandma. It starts with the ‘holy trinity’ (green peppers, onions and celery) and then you can be creative and go crazy depending on what you like, much like a curry. I will of course be asking my Grandma for some tips, so that mine will be the best!

What would be your advice for someone wanting travel?

Travelling is a personal thing but I would say don’t do 10 countries in 3 weeks. Explore 1 or 2, but do it soo good and explore every small town and hidden treasure. Cities can be ‘samey’ after a while, but what I enjoy is going to the small local towns with hardly any tourists and really living like they do and learning new cultures.

Are there any top tips whilst visiting Cambodia that you’d now give to someone?

Cambodia is mostly a Buddhist country. The people are very peaceful, kind and happy with what they’ve got, especially after everything that has gone on in their recent past which is amazing to see. Be respectful, polite and interested and you will fall in love with this country.

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