It’s not a bad idea. Cambodia is always hot enough for ice cream and sometimes on its own the treat just doesn’t do the job of filling you up
In the West, an ice cream sandwich is the name for ice cream that is sandwiched between two slices of wafers.
In Cambodia, the name is literal – a fresh, white, soft baguette that holds great globules of ice cream inside it.
It’s by no means a bad idea. The Kingdom is always hot enough for ice cream, and sometimes on its own the treat just doesn’t do the job of filling you up.
For those who are blessed with both a sweet tooth and a healthy appetite, the mobile carts that wheel ice cream sandwiches around the streets of Phnom Penh are a godsend.
Ngeong Pagna, 23, sells ice cream outside Chey Chumneas Primary School, a few blocks north of Mao Tse Tung Boulevard on Street 105.
Like many street food sellers, his targets are students, and he knows when they have their breaks. “Ice cream is very popular with school students in Cambodia,” he said recently.
Pagna’s parents both sell food at a market and following in their footsteps seemed the natural thing to do.
He noted the growing popularity of ice cream, particularly among children. “I saw that children like ice cream and I thought I would try to sell it to them,” he said.
Pagna sells chocolate and coconut flavours in a cone for only 1,000 riel for adults (500 for children), or in a sandwich for 2,000 riel. If you choose to halve the baguette, it’s half the price. The ice cream is kept cool in two metal tubs. Each one is surrounded by cubes of ice, as well as salt to stop it melting. “As soon as I get the ice cream, I put it in these tubs on my cart,” he said.
Before he had the idea of putting ice cream in bread, Pagna simply served it in cups. “I saw some other carts putting it in bread too, and then realised how easy it would be to eat, and that I could charge more for it,” he said.
The verdict? After having ambivalent expectations, I found Pagna’s ice cream sandwiches to be pretty good.
The bread, though shaped like a baguette, is sweet. But it is more brioche than crusty sandwich material and more cake than bread. Needless to say, this complements the ice cream perfectly.
For condiments, Pagna swirls sweet condensed milk and sprinkles peanut shavings onto the ice cream.
The sandwich is certainly a challenge to get your mouth around, but you don’t have to worry about that common risk of tooth freeze. In fact, the dough acts as a kind of buffer to the often-offending cold stuff.
If you’re sweating it out on a hot day and fancy a cold, refreshing, sugary boost, the ice cream sandwich could be just what you’re looking for.
Ngeong Pagna’s stall, which sells ice cream sandwiches, is parked outside Chey Chumneas Primary School on Street 105 between 10am and 1:30pm on weekdays