Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ding! The Malay fusion food’s here

Ding! The Malay fusion food’s here

Double D chef Luke Ding (left) has expanded the food offerings in Bassac Lane with his Malaysian fusion café .
Double D chef Luke Ding (left) has expanded the food offerings in Bassac Lane with his Malaysian fusion café . Athena Zelandonii

Ding! The Malay fusion food’s here

A small Malaysian-fusion café on Bassac Lane is bringing “elevated street food” to the burgeoning nightlife district around Street 308.

Double D was opened a few weeks ago by Luke Ding, a Malaysian-born and Italian-trained chef who spent 18 years in the Melbourne restaurant scene and relocated to Phnom Penh from Kuala Lumpur last month.

“Back in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian food is going through a fusion movement,” the bandana-clad Ding explained last week. But unlike the waves of fusion food in American cities or elsewhere (think Korean tacos), he said, “it’s not so in-your-face”.

At Double D, this fusion takes the shape of a pulled-pork sandwich with Chinese five-spice and nuoc-cham slaw (the ‘Inglorious Bastard’, $7), or steamed mantou buns with a filling inspired by Peking duck (the ‘What the Duck’, also $7).

Double D’s Malay “elevated street food” includes steamed mantou buns with duck (left) and a five-spice pulled-pork sandwich.
Double D’s Malay “elevated street food” includes steamed mantou buns with duck (left) and a five-spice pulled-pork sandwich. Athena Zelandonii

Ding is working on perfecting a salted egg yolk dip – based on a traditional Malaysian garnish for plain porridge – to accompany some of his upscale dishes. Earlier this year, a salted egg yolk croissant craze took high-end bakeries in Singapore by storm.

“We wanted to combine things that don’t usually go,” Ding said. In other words, Double D fuses the street cart with Ding’s culinary background – and a host of regional flavours.

The restaurant’s signature dish – the eponymous Mighty Double D – is beef rendang served in roti pratha with fries on the side. The café also offers a range of salads ($6 each) and a variety of coffees (starting at $1.75).

For dessert, Ding recommended the sago pudding ($4), a sugary Malaysian specialty made with sago pearls, coconut milk and palm syrup.

Ding says his inspiration for Double D was simple. An accomplished fashion photographer, he noted a distinct lack of decent Malaysian food on his frequent trips to the Kingdom for freelance work.

Ding’s sago pudding makes a sweet finisher.
Ding’s sago pudding makes a sweet finisher. Athena Zelandonii

So he quickly teamed up with Phnom Penh resident Ryan Drewe Taylor, the proprieter of the salon upstairs and a former customer of Ding’s in Malaysia.

He and Taylor took the café’s name from their matching initial. “We didn’t know about the bar on the riverside [with the same name],” Ding joked.

Like many of the eateries on Street 308, Double D is open until 10pm, and Ding hopes to draw on those popping in and out of the bars just next door. “It’s good to be friendly with the neighbours,” he said with a grin.

Double D is located at #M114 Bassac Lane, on the ground floor of the Dollhouse salon. It is open Tuesdays to Sundays for lunch from 11am to 2pm and for dinner from 6pm to 10pm.

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