Spanning the isles of Koh Ouen and Koh Bong in the remote Koh Rong archipelago, Song Saa Private Island is made up of 27 villas, each built from sustainable materials in perfect harmony with the natural environment. Song Saa has been awarded the Butterfly Mark by Positive Luxury, a guarantee of commitment across all areas of sustainability.
For the first time, Song Saa’s Chef Sophat Hing leaves Cambodia behind to begin his residency at pioneering culinary hub Carousel from the 15-26th of November. Positive Luxury meets Chef Sophat Hing, to embark on a culinary adventure and find out more about how he has crafted Song Saa’s culinary vision.
Growing up in rural Cambodia, how would you describe your relationship with food and cooking?
I started cooking when I was 14 years old and was taught by my mom who was an amazing Cambodian homecook. Her first class was teaching me to master Cambodian breakfast noodle soup and soon I was in charge of making it for the family. Every morning I would wake up at 4am and make a half kg of “khmer kreuong” (which is like a light fish curry paste that we add to the soup). This is made using a traditional stone mortar and wooden pestle, which was handed down through the family from my grandmother. She was happy that I was so interested and kept teaching me and encouraged me to go to Phnom Penh where I became a commis chef working in a hotel restaurant. The rest is history, I realised it was my passion.
As you prepare to travel to London and take the reins at Carousel, what are you excited about bringing to the culinary hub?
Absolutely! I am so excited to bringing my own experience as a local Cambodian Chef and ambassador for my country to introduce our cuisine to the London market! I only wish I could also bring my fresh Koh Rong seafood and Chef’s garden produce also … but I am sure the markets in London will offer some amazing opportunities for me to showcase Khmer Cuisine as well as offer me an opportunity to be inspired to create new dishes.
What makes local sourcing so important to you?
We buy locally and grow a lot of our items as it both helps support the people of the archipelago as well as the fishermen out in all weathers to bring in the prawns, squid and other fresh seafood. Going back to my Mothers cooking… it always tastes better when cooked with “garden to plate’ produce that has not travelled half way around the world and lost it’s fresh signature from it’s home.
Song Saa’s ethos are strongly rooted in working in balance with nature. How do reflect this in your dishes?
We only use local suppliers for the items we can bring in of the best quality and that have the same thinking as us about giving something back to the people or the land, as close to ‘fair trade’ as we can, products like seafood from local village next to Song Saa, lettuce, fresh herb and spices from the Chef’s garden using local Khmer crafted plates and sipping fresh local juices from bamboo straws grown less than a mile away.
For the international items we again only work with suppliers who’s ethos is the same or similar to ours. Where the animals are cared for, off the highest quality and sustainable and not on any endangered food listings.
What are the five ingredients you cannot live without?
Lemongrass, kaffir lime, galangal, garlic and “Brohok” – fermented river fish hat is kept for up to a year. The reason being the Mekong river is abundant during the December months and the fish are then stored and used to add flavour to soups and curry style dishes… it’s not a taste for everyone.
If there’s one thing you could change in the culinary scene what would that be?
In our major cities in Cambodia we are seeing more and more, what you call in the west “Fast Food” chains. From my experience I can see the children become addicted to this types of food rather than the balanced cuisine that is native to my country and others in South East Asia. As a father I worry about my children’s health as this foods are becoming more common as Cambodia develops. Eating is very important to Cambodians, due to the civil conflicts of the past. Find out more about Song Saa as a brand to trust here
Book your space now at Carousel London here