With drink carts and coffee shops mushrooming on every corner in Cambodia, it’s a common sight these days to find virtually all people carrying some sort of beverage when walking down the street.
The Kingdom’s beverage culture is blossoming and now expanding beyond the staples, with some coffee shops targeting more niche markets by creating their own original concoctions.
From unusual tropical fruits you’ve likely never heard of, to coffee served with slices of coconut meat, The Post has picked three coffee shops in and around the capital selling unique drinks that are hard to find elsewhere in the Kingdom.
Khting Vor Cafe
Founded by Tang Ekkhung, whose restaurant Sek Meas became a household name in Kampong Cham province, Khting Vor Cafe serves unusual but healthy drinks made from unusual tropical fruits including canistel, wood apple and jambolan.
Born into a family of restaurateurs, the 33-year-old described himself as taste explorer and was trained in the culinary arts at the Global Cooking School and as a barista at Bon Cafe.
Ekkhung likes to break the norm, selecting unusual ingredient usually reserved for religious offerings rather than eating.
“One day, my staff brought me canistel fruits. As I was peeling the fruit, I thought the texture on the inside looked like a well cooked egg yolk and that it might be good for making a smoothie,” Ekkhung recalled.
He had several attempts until he finally found the right balance of ingredients to perfect his canistel milkshake recipe.
“Once my staff and friends tasted it and gave positive feedback, I decided to put this unique drink on sale in my cafe.”
Seeing the popularity of his canistel milkshake, Ekkhung decided to create a wood apple milkshake and a jambolan smoothie. Both fruits are usually eaten fresh or by adding salt and sugar, but are rarely, if ever, used in drinks.
“My second creation was the wood apple drink and the third jambolan. Jambolan can only be mixed with water, unlike wood apple and canistel that can be blended with milk,” Ekkhung said, also warning against breastfeeding mothers drinking the jambolan smoothie for health reasons.
The canistel milkshake, wood apple milkshake and jambolan smoothie all sell for 8,000 riel ($2) each, while there is also a canistel milk tea shake (9,000 riel), jambolan juice and jambolan soda (7,000 riel each).
With a mission to promote local fruits, the cafe owner said some drinks are seasonal and their availability depends on the harvest season.
“I might not be the first person to discover these drinks, but I want to make the best use of unpopular fruits in the market hoping that people will not overlook the health benefits of eating local fruits. They are just as healthy as foreign imported fruits,” he said.
Open from 6am to 8pm every day, Khting Vor Cafe is located about 500m from Skun Market on National Road 7 in Kampong Cham province.
Contact number 077 231 086.
With two branches selling a few hundred cups of coffee each day, coconut coffee has become a popular drink for those seeking an alternative way to get their daily caffeine fix.
Founded by Ouk Sopheatra and a friend two years ago as a mobile street cart before upgrading to a cafe, the coffee served is topped with slices of coconut meat.
The cafe has become a big hit despite the abundance of coffee shops and stands in Phnom Penh.
“My friend is a heavy coffee drinker, but I am not so much. Before we started our business, my friend decided he wanted to sell a drink that is different from the rest.
“He then heard about coconut coffee which is a good alternative for people who love coffee and dessert. I’m so fond of the taste myself and I believe that people will feel the same,” 29-year-old Sopheatra said.
Coconut Coffee sells milk coffee, milk green tea, milk red tea and chocolate, all topped with slices of coconut meat, at 4,500 riel for a small cup and 6,000 riel for a big cup.
Customers can order each drink adapted to their tastes.
“We try to make the drink enjoyable for all, whether they want more coffee or more coconut,” said Sopheatra.
Coconut Coffee is open from 6:30am to 6:30pm daily. One branch is located on street 337 near the corner of street 516, while the second is located on the corner of street 488 and 155, both in Phnom Penh.
Contact number 010 709 198 and 099 875 333.
Praised as an entirely natural energy drink, sugarcane has always been a favourite sweet street beverage among Cambodians. But for some expats and foreigners, the inevitable sight of flies and wasps buzzing around the discarded sugarcane can be off-putting for hygiene reasons.
This is why Chak Sokpheng, the owner of 6A Cafe, started selling sugarcane juice to introduce this local favourite to a wider variety of people.
“I was running a grilled banana shop and never thought of adding any drink to my menu. One day I met two foreigners who came to buy my grilled banana. They bought sugarcane juice from the street nearby my shop. I heard one of them ask the other, ‘aren’t you afraid of food poisoning?’ I was embarrassed to hear foreigners talking about a local drink like this,” the 32-year-old explains.
He decided he would sell sugarcane juice but add sweet durian flesh to give it a unique twist.
Some wonder if adding the ‘King of Fruits’ to an already sweet drink may be too much, but Sokpheng assures that “it’s not as sweet as you would expect if made with the right balance”.
He also plans to roll out sugarcane juice with mint, passion fruit, pineapple, pandan leaf and guava.
6A Cafe is open from 10am to 7pm daily and is located at 108H on National Road 6A, Chroy Changvar district. There is a second branch located in BKK1 on street 306.
Contact number 096 222 3327.