Chicky chicken: The taste of slow food served up fast

Jan Van Den Wyngaert
Chicky’s Jan Van Den Wyngaert treats poultry with the reverence normally given fine wines. Kimberley McCosker

Chicky chicken: The taste of slow food served up fast

A new French-style rotisserie joint is proving that customers don’t have to wait for delicious roast poultry

Chicky is the latest of a recent rash of cheap, quick takeaway joints targeting both Cambodians and foreigners. But your classic chicken shop it is not: there are no sizzling deep fat fryers lit by a neon glare.

Instead, Chicky does fast food like the Parisians, with imported chicken, top-secret herb rubs and – most importantly – a state-of-the-art rotisserie oven.

“This is everything that we do,” says sales and marketing manager Jan Van Den Wyngaert, who treats poultry with the kind of reverence with which others might approach a fine wine. “We are the first proper rotisserie in Phnom Penh. We saw a huge hole in the market.”

In rotisserie cooking, basted meat is skewered on a horizontal spit and turned slowly over heat. Chickens take about two and a half hours to cook, and 10 minutes to cool.

Chicky chicken is served on piles of roast vegetables.
Chicky Chicken is served on piles of roast vegetables. KIMBERLEY MCCOSKER

These glass-panelled ovens are a common sight on the streets of French cities, where even the capital’s gourmands see no shame in popping out to buy a rotisserie chicken to make the centre of a weekend dinner: it’s hard to DIY the all-round succulence that comes from constant rotation.

Van Den Wyngaert says approvingly that many people in Phnom Penh are adopting this tradition and taking the chickens home to eat as part of a family meal – as evinced by the fact that sales spike on Sundays. It’s an approach that combines the convenience of takeaway with the values of the slow food movement.

Pleasant, clean surroundings mean that eating in is also popular. One of the first of two outlets to open is strategically situated on Street 29 near Street 308, and is quickly establishing itself as a go-to spot after overindulging at one of the clutch of new bars in the area. The other venue is a cosy, exposed brick and black board space on Street 63.

For eat-in diners, the meat is served in a heavy bottomed casserole pan, surrounded by potatoes and vegetables cooked in the dripping chicken juices at the bottom of the rotisserie. Van Den Wyngaert says that while Khmer customers were initially disappointed by the absence of rice on the menu, the roast potatoes have been a resounding success. “The first chicken we bought, we invited the lady who lived next door who had never eaten potatoes. Now she is coming back – not for the chicken, for the potatoes,” he says with satisfaction.

The minamalist interior of Chicky’s Street 63 outlet
The minamalist interior of Chicky Chicken’s Street 63 outlet. KIMBERLEY MCCOSKER

The chicken itself is excellent: soft, plump white meat with a salty glaze of herbs and spices soaked into the crisp skin. The birds are reared free range in Malaysia and can come quartered ($3), halved ($6) or whole ($10). There are also a variety of sets to choose from, the standout bargain being a quarter chicken, side dish, salad and drink for $5. Khmer chickens – which are smaller and tougher – are also available for slightly lower prices. “We wanted to keep the prices democratic,” says Van Den Wyngaert, adding that so far there have been an equal number of Khmer and expat customers.

The owners have plans to turn Chicky into a local chain: new venues in Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap are anticipated, and items such as mushroom sauce and salsa will be added to the menu as the concept develops.

But Van Den Wyngaert says that for now they have simple priorities: “First we need to get everybody into the chicken.”

Chicky is located at #165 Street 63 and in Street 29 (near Street 308). Tel: 023 213 622.

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