At It’s A Wrap, tortilla-sealed global cuisine is offered at some of the best prices around, with profits fed to worthwhile causes. Writing by Joanna Mayhew. Photography by Lucas Veuve.
Curbside eatery It’s A Wrap may be Phnom Penh’s friendliest and most unassuming outlet, specialising in international burritos served from a tuk tuk and all set at $3 a pop.
Staffed mainly by volunteers from Italy, India, Mexico and Singapore, the operation is the newest brainchild of American owner Barbara Nicaud, who opened Mexican eatery Alma, but has since left the cafe. With 30 years’ cooking experience in home kitchens across India, Mexico and the US, Nicaud wanted to provide low-cost, home-style cooking to both locals and expats. She was inspired to create wrap innovations based on her staff’s home countries, as “what’s home to one person is foreign to another”, she says.
On a recent visit, Nicaud’s daily special was a shout-out to New Orleans, with a chicken e’touffee smothered chicken wrap. Served on a plastic green plate, the burrito was packed with sautéed chicken and smoked sausage in a dark brown roux, with the ‘holy trinity’ of bell pepper, onions and celery, along with cayenne pepper, garlic and thyme, and served atop ginger- and garlic-infused rice. The comforting burrito was nicely spiced, with an added kick from the in-house chilli spread, made from imported chile guajillo and local Thai chillies.
The Italian Job – a mainstay burrito – featured loose pork sausage with fennel, garlic, basil, oregano, peppers and potatoes, along with melted mozzarella and a balsamic olive oil dressing. The slightly sweet dish resembled an elevated Sloppy Joe, including the mess. Other standard offerings include a Chinese braised pork wrap and an aloo ghobi Indian wrap.
It’s A Wrap also offers complimentary lemonade and chips and salsa, daily soups ($1) and desserts ($1-$3), including a velvety and moist three-layered black forest cake, with rich raspberry sauce and topped with light whipping cream.
But Nicaud’s cause is bigger than the overstuffed burritos. All profits are funnelled into church-sponsored development projects, ranging from English and hygiene lessons to clean water and medical programs. The restaurant’s tuk tuk is also driven to each site, where food is provided for free. “We don’t expect making burritos is going to change the world,” Nicaud says. “But we expect to be able to change the world of the people we come across.”
Though in the city the tuk tuk is only used to warm and fold the wraps, it makes the outlet more accessible. “I’m not a chef in a kitchen,” she adds. “I’m a girl at a food truck.”
Started a year ago, the truck now has a permanent location, where those wanting to dine in can sit at outdoor turquoise distressed wood chairs and table tops, surrounded by flag banners, bulb lights and black lanterns. But the eatery opens early and closes whenever it runs out of food, so get there early.
This looks unlikely to change, as for now it’s all about keeping things simple, with set prices and consistently tasty food—all used for good. And that’s a wrap.