She is a young beautiful actress and successful TV host at CTN TV, but out of the spotlight GiGi is a budding food and beverage entrepreneur.
GiGi, real name Pich Solida, puts aside her celebrity image when she is managing operations for her restaurant I’m Spicy Soup. In fact, in a photo posted on her restaurant’s Facebook page, she digs her fingers into a pile of lieh hal (salted freshwater clams) to draw attention from netizens.
The signature dish at I’m Spicy Soup is the family recipe inspired spicy soup, a Khmer-style hotpot. Other than the hotpot, the cosy restaurant also serves Chinese-inspired dishes.
Though her business is growing steadily, Gigi faced criticism from the entertainment industry when she opened I’m Spicy Soup, being told that her image as a celebrity could be negatively impacted by selling cheap street food.
However, the young celebrity, who is proud of her humble roots, told The Post: “Some people in showbiz thought it [the business] might tarnish my reputation, but I don’t think so.
“Selling cheap food should not be a reason to be mocked or looked down upon. I don’t mind selling food that is classified as only for the poor. I don’t care about the critics – my customers’ support speaks for itself.”
At I’m Spicy Soup, lieh hal, a spicy salted freshwater clam dish, is cooked outside to attract customers and costs 5,000 riel ($1.25) per serving.
The popular Cambodian street food is among the best-sellers at I’m Spicy Soup, with 110 to 150 servings sold per day.
The humble Gigi said: “Honestly, I’m not a person with much experience in cooking. I have very basic culinary skills and can only cook very simple dishes.
“Luckily, I have an elder sister who is a real foodie. Sometimes when we had gatherings with friends at home, she prepared her speciality hotpot, which my friends thought tasted good.”
That was why the sisters, who are now business partners, decided to venture into the restaurant industry.
Armed with a burning passion for cooking and both being foodies, GiGi and her sister first experimented with selling food online in 2017.
“I was pursuing a degree in Tourism and Hospitality, but I suspended it in year three because I was too busy with my showbiz career,” GiGi said.
“Initially, I only sold spicy soup online. As my business expanded, a few tables were set up in front of my small boutique. And, with the overwhelming support from my patrons, I transformed the boutique into a food and beverage outlet and switched to selling clothes online.”
At I’m Spicy Soup, the restaurant’s eponymous signature dish has a unique taste which is a blend of sourness, sweetness, saltiness and spiciness. It is a local delicacy that is not for the faint-hearted.
For breakfast, the shop serves rice with a choice of grilled pork, fried egg, or chicken ($1.50 to $3). There is also the option of noodles served with pork, beef, or meatballs ($2.50 to $5).
Starting in the afternoon, I’m Spicy Soup serves its signature I’m Spicy Soup hotpot which comes in small ($10.50) or large ($16.25).
According to GiGi, her restaurant receives 200 to 300 customers per day, most of whom are young locals, with the occasional group of expats.
“Because the recipe for this hotpot is created by us, I think that it’s unique and cannot be found elsewhere. As you know, most local hotpots taste similar because they use ingredients commonly found in Khmer cuisine.
“But our spicy soup has a distinctive taste because of my unique family recipe. The taste cannot be replicated,” GiGi said.
The restaurateur-cum-presenter recently expanded her menu by adding in local favourites papaya salad ($6.25) and mushroom soup ($3.50).
Observing the steady growth of her customer base, the entrepreneurial celebrity is looking to expand her street food business to bring in more revenue.
“I’m thinking of opening another outlet and will apply to the authorities to create a franchise,” she said.
I’m Spicy Soup is located on Street 112 (between Russian Federation Boulevard and Street 118) and its opening hours are 7am to 8pm daily. The restaurant can be contacted via telephone (078 699 998 or 015 299 933).