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 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 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.