Bakeries in Siem Reap, Cambodia: Breads, Pastries & Cakes
Colonized by the French for nearly a century, the urban locals of Cambodia have adapted their diets to include thin-crust French bread excluding sourdough. Although the typical Cambodian local does not consume bread on a daily basis, it can be said that they may enjoy bread in the form of Vietnamese sandwiches.
Further, as a nation that is continually influenced by Chinese culture, wheat flour-based products such as baozi (Chinese steamed buns), youtiao and mooncakes are Chinese-styled snacks that can be found in food stalls, markets and bakeries throughout Cambodia.
With great pleasure, I now present to you a series of amateur photographs (taken by myself) featuring a handful of bakeries based in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Please view this blog entry as a tiny glimpse into Cambodia’s baking culture as I am certain that there is much more to explore in this subject. Enjoy! :)
Interestingly, when I asked my work colleagues about the best bakeries in town they all mentioned “Apsara Bakery”.
According to their website, Apsara Bakery was first established in 1980, based in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. Specializing in western and Chinese-styled baked goods, Apsara Bakery currently has four outlets operating in Phnom Penh and two in Siem Reap.
At the bakery front I was confronted by a bundle of French bread, showcased in a transparent glass display.
Stepping into the bakery, my senses had immediately indulged in the sights and smells of freshly baked goods. From colourful doughnuts to laminated meat-filled pastries, the Apsara Bakery offered an assortment of sweet breads, pastries and cakes.
Operating recently under new management and staff, the French-owned La Boulangerie-Café is now reportedly distributing its baked products to over twenty locations in Cambodia, including hotels, restaurants, shops and markets.
I had visited La Boulangerie-Café during the late afternoon, and to my surprise, the bakery-café was occupied by a group of foreign patrons, many in their mid-twenties to early thirties. Judging by their accents and spoken language, I safely concluded that they were French nationals.
Upon entering the cozy La Boulangerie-Café, I was greeted by a young Cambodian man named Mr. Davan, perhaps a supervisor or manager of the bakery-café. Briefly conversing about breads and eventually our livelihoods, I soon learned that he was fluent in Khmer, French and English. Suffice it to say, I was deeply impressed.
Owned by the corporate entity Lucky Market Group, the Luck Bakery has continually downsized since its inception in Siem Reap, closing one of its bakeries earlier this year (2012). The Luck Bakery also supplies its baked products to Lucky Market Group’s café: LucKafe–located on the second storey of the supermarket Lucky Mall (shown above) in Siem Reap.
As I took photographs of the bakery, the cashier briskly left the premises, possibly to contact security. This was my cue to leave, knowing that taking photographs in Lucky Mall was not permitted (as evidenced by the above photo).
The No Name Bakery is not called No Name Bakery. To clarify, the bakery itself did not display its name, but sold a small selection of Chinese-styled sweet breads. Noticing the foreign letterings on the shop front, I assumed the bakery was owned and run by a Chinese-Cambodian family.
Next to the bread display was a multi-tier steamer, which I had mistakened as a large rubbish bin at first glance. Without this essential equipment, steamed goods would not exist.
As I entered the Phsaleu Bakery (“Upper Market Bakery”), I was welcomed by two timid but cheerful young women. In English, I asked one of the young ladies if they baked their own breads as opposed to purchasing them elsewhere. Stuttering and pausing intermittently, she explained to me in broken English that yes, they do in fact produce their own bread. Giggling and smiling, she also added that she did not personally bake the breads herself.
As I stood in the bakery, it did not take me long to realize that the Phsaleu Bakery specialized in the preparation of decorated cakes. Posters of wedding cakes on the interior walls had also reinforced this presumption.
Opened for only two months, the newly established restaurant Schnitzel Wirtin is quickly garnering attention from Siem Reap’s Central-European community. Moreover, the restaurant is reputated for serving large portions of Austrian cuisine, where their most popular dish is the Vienna Schnitzel.
Note: The word “reputated” is not an actual word.
To my current knowledge, Mr. Roman, the Viennese owner of Schnitzel Wirtin, has been in the restaurant business in Cambodia since 2004. In addition to that, he has been baking breads both leisurely and professionally for over a decade.
Without a doubt, the rye breads prepared by Mr. Roman is one of the best tasting breads I had in my life. Let me just emphasize, this is not an exaggeration.
Note: Above is a photo of me holding a fresh loaf of rye bread from Schnitzel Wirtin.
The Cambodian name of the said bakery is “Hang Nombang Ponleu Preah Ahdid”, translated into English as “Sunlight Bakery”.
Operating in dim light, the bakery produces hundreds of loaves per day, all of which are transported to local Cambodian restaurants, sandwich shops and vendors, markets, and even other bakeries.
Several batches of shaped dough were fed into the large stainless steel ovens and baked until the crusts casted an orangy-red colour, depending on the bread type.
Curious, I asked the manager of the bakery about the chopped wood adjacent to the ovens. She then explained to me that their breads were occassionally baked using a combination of “firewood” and “electricity”. Further details about this process was not disclosed.
As stated by the manager, the majority of the loaves produced by the Sunlight Bakery were “sweet bread” and “salty bread”. Without questioning the manager, I assumed that the term “salty bread” meant lean or unenriched French bread.
Marketed towards foreigners and tourists, the highly successful Blue Pumpkin is an all-in-one café, bakery and ice-cream shop–a perfect retreat for travelers roaming under the hot tropical sun.
Located in several tourist hotspots in Cambodia, including Siem Reap’s International Airport, The Blue Pumpkin offers an array of European-styled breads, pastries and cakes, such as baguettes, croissants, brioche, and even sourdough breads.
Coincidentally, several days ago I personally met and shook hands with the C.E.O. (big boss) of The Blue Pumpkin at a press conference. (This event was related to my job.) He introduced himself as Mr. Tristan–who I can only describe as a young handsome Frenchman whose character was noted by courtesy and friendliness.
Somewhere on the corner of a street, an unnamed sandwich shop advertises itself by displaying a wall of French bread, cans of mackeral and condensed sweetened milk.