The pornography of tropical ice cream.

Phnom Penh's Ice Cream, Cambodia

Ice cream in the tropics is pornographic. There is a moral wrongness about consummating your lather of hot season sweat with something cold and creamy. It’s a fleeting pleasure riddled with First World guilt. What’s more it’s for sale, quite openly, on the streets of Phnom Penh. Presumably, ice cream arrived in Phnom Penh with the French colonisers and has since become popular with the colonised as a street food (which I have covered previously in both a microbiological and more sociological sense). What has changed within the past year is the opening of a handful of upmarket establishments, pimping their rich flavours to richer Phnom Penhois.

Fanny at Open Wine

Any locals fearing a Vietnamese invasion be warned: advance troops have been sent to pervert the local population with their seductive iced treats. While the name may refer to an Australian slang term for female genitalia, Fanny is actually an offshoot of a well-established Saigon ice creamery rather than a more disreputable local establishment selling their namesake. Painted in the same mustard palette as their partner over the border with the same menu and wrought iron furniture, the only concession to Cambodian preferences seems to be the covert removal of any reference to Vietnam from the marketing collateral. Their garden seating area looks a little worse for wear by day, but classier by night when the fairy light bedecked palm lights up.

With twelve flavours of ice cream on offer and eight sorbets (including local seasonal flavours of passionfruit, durian and mango), I was only left with one choice: order the ice cream modelled into the shape of a cyclo (US$3.50). After a short negotiation with my assigned waitress, it was revealed that a vital component to the dish, the slices of orange for the wheels, had run out, so I settled for a much more prosaic scoop of mint and dark chocolate (pictured above). The mint had an industrial mint essence quality and contained the ice crystal warning signs of being defrosted then refrozen; the dark chocolate was foamy, fatty and mousseline.

Price: $0.75 per small scoop

Location: In Open Wine, Street 19 just north of the Street 240 corner. Open Wine also has a magic barbecue that transmutes animal flesh into timber: if you’re planning to eat there, pair your wines with ice cream. However, their meat-centric antipasto platter is a great accompaniment to a celebratory bottle of brut de brut.

Bong Karem

Phnom Penh's Ice Cream

Bong Karem is a welcome newcomer to the Street 240 tourist strip because unlike practically every venue on that street, the food is outstanding. Sixteen flavours of gelati taunt you at the front counter and Karem will offer custom flavours to larger orders. I foresee a bold future for personally designing Kampot pepper, fresh turmeric and galangal gelato. The small shopfront lacks seating which is a huge drawback in hot season when you’ll be left with a fistful of sticky cream within minutes of exiting the store.

Bong Karem’s cones are fresh and they pad out their local fruit range with rarer imported flavours such as hazelnut. I hit my personal gelato favourite (cocco) which entrapped the refreshing tartness of green coconut milk with a few slivers of desiccated flesh mixed throughout, and the matching ciocolata (chocolate) was fully rounded with a slightly grainy cocoa mouthfeel.

Price: $1 per scoop

Location: #57Eo, Street 240 (map)

Vergers D’Angkor

Phnom Penh's Ice Cream

Vergers D’Angkor is a hotel/restaurant supplier and Cambodia’s oldest artisanal ice cream producer, but doesn’t have a parlour befitting of its own product. Their dark chocolate (pictured) was more anorexic than Karem’s or Fanny’s and had suffered a little in storage at Comme à la Maison’s small delicatessen. When I find a fresher punnet, I will do them the justice of a better review.

Price: $3 for a 250gm punnet.

Location: Available from Comme à la Maison, #13, Street 57.

See also: Mobile Ice Cream: Droppin’ Science, Ice cream Sandwich on Wheels, Paucity of Phnom Penh Power: Ice cream in Crisis

6 thoughts on “The pornography of tropical ice cream.”

  1. It really does scare me that somebody out there has kept their tapes of Solid Gold dancers, awaiting the arrival of Youtube so that they could share them with the world. I wonder how many failed jazz ballet careers those guys sparked?

  2. Phil,

    The big problem with the local outlet of Fanny’s is that they are missing some of the best flavors sold in the Saigon and Hanoi venues: e.g., Cinnamon, Ginger, “Young Rice” and others.

    I actually thought the BBQ at Open Wine wasn’t so bad. Perhaps you were there on an off night?

    Re: Vergers d’Angkor (whose passionfruit sorbet is great), I think they sell retail from their factory (?) location that is down an alley across from Psah Kapko. Yes, it’s that close — no excuse for you now.

    – Michael

  3. I’ve had the BBQ at Open Wine three times and every grilled meat was equally bad each visit – only once were the steaks not charred to well done.

    I actually went looking for the Vergers factory near Psar Kapko and couldn’t find it. Does it have a sign?

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