Inspired by a trip to Belgium, Filipino couple Hannah and Martin Bandalan have brought the first waffle house to Phnom Penh.
Tucked away on a Tuol Tompoung side street, Waffle Magic’s yellow awning entreats passersby to try a taste of Hannah and Martin Bandalan’s passion project.
Based in the Kingdom for more than two decades, the Filipino couple took a trip to Belgium nearly two years ago that inspired them to “let go of the corporate world” and serve sweet and savoury waffles back in Cambodia.
“My wife studied how to make chocolates in Belgium, and we experienced waffles,” Martin says. For Hannah, they’re “the ultimate street food” from the Western European nation. And so the couple partnered with several friends to open the shop in December.
“After trying Liege and Brussels-style waffles that we couldn’t find in Cambodia, we decided to make them ourselves,” says Hannah, referring to Belgian waffles with thick batter (Liege) and those with a lighter, crispier texture (Brussels). For now, the couple are sticking with the Brussels style but plan to introduce its denser counterpart later.
The cosy shop serves an array of dessert waffles ranging from the simple, such as the ice-cream-topped A La Mode ($3.50), to more elaborate creations with Oreos, apples and cinnamon; but the best-seller is the savoury Chicken Tenders ($4.50) waffle.
A variation on the American South’s classic fried chicken and waffles, the chicken is spiced using Martin’s own recipe. As an alternative to maple syrup, you can douse your chicken with chilli-infused Cambodian honey.
Despite the name, Waffle Magic is more than just waffles; the ice cream is also Belgian style and made by local ice cream maker LYLY Cream while the Cambodian orange juice and coffee also comes from the neighbouring businesses, which Hannah says is part of the goal of being a business that supports the community.
The little restaurant also showcases Hannah’s chocolatier training. Her chocolates, which she brands separately from the waffles, are a combination of classic and original recipes. She names her own creations after the people most dear to her, such as close friends and family.
“Antonio”, a three-layered truffle with passion fruit gelatin dipped in white chocolate, is taken from her husband’s middle name. Meanwhile, a candied orange peel covered in dark chocolate is named for her late sister, Kukai. The sweetness, Hannah says, reminds her of “the burst of sunshine” that was her sister’s personality.