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Italian delights from a fine French ice creamery

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The Coupe le Rosy strawberry ice cream from the French-inspired ice cream store Le Cone. Photograph: supplied

It started out as nothing more than a casual comment to create an ice cream space to call their own. But one thing led to another, and before long a new family-run ice cream store on Sihanouk Boulevard could turn out to be the answer to an authentic, home-made ice cream experience.

Le Cone, a French-inspired ice-cream store managed by cousins Chea Vouchkim, Tang Souhong and Taing Tonglun and their nephew Hak Chheng Leang, all in their early 20s, opened its doors two weeks ago after a late-night chat over dessert last December brought up the idea of creating their own brand of ice cream.

“We wanted to offer something different from what is already available here, so we came up with the idea of selling natural, home-made ice cream,” co-owner Chea Vouchkim says.

The two types of frozen desserts carried by the store – sorbets and gelatos – are made with ingredients specially acquired from Italy, with the exception of the tropical fruits, which are obtained locally.

“Because gelato originated from Italy, we get most of our ingredients from there so we can bring the authentic experience to our customers,” adds co-owner and ice-cream chef Hak Chheng Leang, who learned the ropes of ice cream-making at Le Mekong restaurant in Versailles and Tokyo Choisy restaurant in Paris.

According to the 25-year-old, everything from the ice cream to the cones and waffles is made fresh.

“Unlike other brands, we do not include any preservatives or additives in our ice cream,” adds Chheng Leang, who gets up at 5am every day to prepare the ingredients.

To keep our ice cream fresh, we have to make a new batch every day.”

Besides offering customers a healthier option through its low-fat, low-sugar creations, Le Cone’s ice cream features exotic local flavours such as durian and jackfruit in addition to unique ones like rose, whiskey and bubblegum.

Some of Hak Chheng Leang’s specialty items feature blends of fruits and ice cream, such as the Banorio (US$2), a sweet concoction of oreo cookies and banana-flavoured ice cream, and the Dango ($2), a mix of fresh mangoes and durian-flavoured ice cream that gives it a rich but smooth taste.

“We hope to create flavours that suit the taste buds of the people in Phnom Penh,” Hak Chheng Leang says. “Certain fruits complement, and bring out the flavours in, the ice cream, so it tastes better.”

The craft of ice cream-making is not without difficulty, however. After all, the chef spent seven years in France experimenting with the various flavours.

“The ingredients for the different flavours are more or less the same, but the amount required differs,” Chheng Leang adds. “If there are slight errors, the ice cream will taste weird and we cannot use them.”

The chef maintains that his high standards differentiate his ice cream from that of his competitors. Since opening day, the ice cream store has served an average of 50-odd customers on a weekday, with the number doubling on a weekend.

“The happiest moment for us comes when customers enjoy our ice cream,” says Chea Vouchkim. “It gives us the motivation to find new ideas to make our ice cream better so that we can cater to people of all ages.”

Plans are brewing for a French-style breakfast menu and a cocktail bar on the second floor of the three-storey shophouse.

“Right now, we just want to do our best in running this place,” Vouchkim says. “If things go well, we might even go on to set up more stores.”

Until June 30, Le Cone is offering a 20 per cent discount on all ice-cream purchases. Le Cone is located at #18, 20 Sihanouk Blvd, Phnom Penh, and is open daily from 10am to 10pm.

To contact the reporter on this story: Calvin Yang at newsroom@phnompenhpost.com

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