Savvy expats with a craving for a taste of home have been shopping for years at Auskhmer Import Export Company, a Phnom Penh-based business with a branch in Siem Reap. But because it mainly serves hotels and restaurants, Auskhmer remains a hidden gem for those in the know seeking proper English tea, fine wines or a good Australian steak.
Founded in 2001 by Australian Simon Roe, the company started off importing meats.
“Simon imported meat at first, the majority from Australia and step by step he decided to bring in more products because foreigners were asking for new products they had at home,” says beverage sales director Grégoire Serrell d’Angély. “Now you have a big French community here so they ask for some products from France, for example cheese, sausage, these kind of things.”
Auskhmer is more of a warehouse than a supermarket, and walking into the un-marked building next to New Star KTV on Lok Taney Road there are boxes of Acqua Panna mineral water piled high next to stacks of Bouton d’Or Dijon mustard.
A peek into various chilled rooms reveals an assortment of wines and grocery items including bottles of HP Sauce and – rather excitingly for this Brit – jars of Branston pickle, a must for any cheddar cheese sandwich.
Frozen fish and cuts of meat are kept in still colder rooms, the meat being particularly popular among barbecue-loving expats.
While supplying goods to hotels such as Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort and Le Meridien Angkor, Auskhmer will also sell to ‘cash customers’ – walk-in individuals looking for a box of Tetley tea or topside of beef.
The steaks, from Australia and US, are much-loved among expats and d’Angély says the frozen turkeys are a sellout around Thanksgiving and Christmas time. Long-term British expat and manager of the Warehouse Bar, Pete Franks favours some of the hard-to-get English items.
“I buy Branston pickle, PG Tips or Tetley tea bags and wine mostly,” he says, “They do a lovely pinot noir. For the bar we get juices, meat pies, sausage rolls, wine and tea bags.”
Auskhmer receives new products every month, including a wide variety of meats and cheeses not stocked elsewhere. Most of the stock is kept at the Phnom Penh headquarters, so items can also be ordered from there.
“The majority of the time people go to the supermarkets, but if they want something specific they come here and ask if they can get this kind of product,” d’Angély says. “Depending on the price we can get it, that’s possible
“With cheese, somewhere like Angkor Market sells out really quickly. If people are looking for reblochon for example, they come here and they are sure to get it. Or raclette – that’s impossible to find at the supermarket.”
D’Angély acknowledges that Auskhmer is something of a well-kept secret. “It’s kind of a secret thing, because people know it exists, but never talk about it.”
Auskhmer is open from 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday..