From red wine ice cream with chocolate chunks to a coffee variety featuring bacon, one Phnom Penh ice cream shop is bringing Willy Wonka-style wonder to the capital. Ellie Dyer and photographer Charles Fox get stuck in.
Set on Street 113, near Tuol Sleng museum, Bubbles Tea & Ice Cream has rapidly gained a reputation for its rich, custard-based ice creams and adventurous flavour combinations since opening in April.
“It’s always ice cream weather,” says friendly co-owner Mervin Chin, who is originally from San Francisco and set up the store together with his sister, Joyce Touch, and her husband, James.
At the core of the family-run enterprise is a range of quality ice creams that are “made with love and made with care” and offered up alongside bubble teas and coffees.
The shop, decorated in clean whites with touches of dramatic red, features a constantly evolving repertoire of flavours, although only eight varieties are displayed at one time. However, they are rotated regularly.
Scoops ($1.75 for one, $3 for two) are served in cups, or fresh and crispy, hand-made cones made of tapioca powder, shredded coconut and black sesame.
With flavour mastermind Chin cooking, churning and chilling concoctions upstairs, customers are assured of discovering something outside of the proverbial box.
During AsiaLIFE’s recent visit, a subtle champagne ice cream called “The Good Life” was on display together with a mint-chocolate chip, a classic Apple Pie and the “Saigon”, consisting of a coconut-coffee ice cream with chocolate covered nutella.
Elsewhere, potato chips and chocolate-covered pretzels added texture to the aptly named “Midnight Snack”.
“You just experiment, it’s all trial and error,” says Chin, explaining that flavours can evolve over time.
The “American Breakfast”, for instance, started life as a maple syrup ice cream with bacon, before being tweaked into having a base of coffee ice cream. In the next incarnation, pancakes may make an appearance too.
Bubbles Tea & Ice Cream is, however, perhaps best known for is its gooey, salted caramel, which can be slathered over rich vanilla ice cream, or even put in a caramel coffee latté. It’s a flavour sensation, hitting sweet-savoury taste buds at once, with addictive results.
The family also works with seasonal produce and is now growing fruit at a local farm.
But at the heart of it all remains a passion for ice cream and the happiness it can bring, with Chin reminiscing over childhood memories of discovering new flavours at a favourite ice cream shop.
“They had all these flavours that I’d never seen before. And that’s kind of what I wanted to do here. I wanted to recreate that sort of childhood wonder, I guess,” he says.