Food, glorious food, is central to the European Christmas spirit.
A meal needs a masterly touch to hit the palate with memories of Christmas dinners and Christmas kitsch.
Fortunately, Phnom Penh offers many options for those seeking classic fare this festive season.
If you plan on making Christmas dinner at home, you can order from DanMeats, at at 51A Street 214. DanMeats is a longstanding gourmet butchers that roasts stuffed turkey and ham on request. New French delicacies have been brought in for the season, including boudin blanc – a white, plump sausage with a touch of sweetness, pâté campagne and pork rillet.
Or sample the German Christ Stolle breads, huge loaves with citrus flavours and crusts of sugar, produced in Cambodia for the first time this year. Irish black pudding will arrive soon.
DanMeats says customers coveting a freshly cooked turkey or crosshatched ham should reserve immediately for the busy holidays.
For confectionery, look to Cafe Fresco on the corner of Sisowath Quay and Street 178. Plum and chocolate torte, Christmas fruitcake, and puddings range from $20 to $25. Macadamia shortbread, bonbons and pan forte can be had for US$6 to $15.
Fresco requests 24 hours’ notice for preparation, and offers home delivery.
Comme a la Maison, at 13 Street 57, brings French preparation to Christmas feasts, offering a $39 prix fixe of “Festive Season Temptations” through January 3 by reservation. Less expensive a la carte temptations include baked apple with brandy, boudin blanc with black truffles, duck foie gras with fig confit, pear in spiced wine, and bûche or log cake for dessert.
For a low-fuss, low-key, low-cost Christmas, try Bada Bing Bar Bakery at 12 Street 5. It offers $5 savoury meat pasties to eat in or order home.
Its hearty yet light Cornish pastie falls open at a fork’s touch. The bakery also promises a special Christmas dinner at $12 per plate, with English-style turkey with cranberry sauce and loads of vegetables.
Tradition goes casual in this bakery’s informal setting with music by the Sex Pistols and The Who.
If a European Christmas seems unsuitable in this tropical climate, consider Spanish-inspired tapas restaurant Pacharan on the corner of Sisowath Quay and Street 184. Pacharan is offering a four-course “Menu de Navidad” for $35. What begins with Cava, oysters, and Iberian ham ends with black chocolate croquettes and raspberries.
When it comes to Christmas feasting in Phnom Penh, the biggest question is, how to stop?