Cambodia first ice cream van is proving a hit. Marissa Carruthers meets the ambitious team behind the business. Photography by Conor Wall.
As a child, the distinct jingle of the ice cream van was enough to transform me into a salivating ball of excitement. Now, thanks to Hong Srey Sambatha, Cambodian children can also whip themselves into a frenzy at the familiar sound of the ice cream man.
Having spent several years working for the ice cream department of global confectionary giant Nestlé, he has made it his mission to bring top quality ice cream to Cambodia. Three years ago, he launched his own business, LouLou’s, in the form of a small fleet of pushcarts selling ice lollies on the streets.
But it was during a trip to Thailand that he came across the concept of ice cream vans and vowed to introduce them to Cambodia. Market research then led him to Malaysia, where his passion was further fuelled by the vans frequenting the streets of the capital, Kuala Lumpur. After several more field trips to Thailand, the entrepeneur commissioned his 22-year-old son, Lou, to compose the music that he hopes will become synonymous with his van, before unleashing the idea on Phnom Penh.
At the end of February, the cute pink and white minivan hit the capital’s streets. With a large ice cream cone sat on top, the only way of missing LouLou’s is when it’s surrounded by a mob of students desperate for a daily dose of home-made ice cream during the school break.
While there may not be a 99 in sight, LouLou’s – which is driven and operated by chirpy seller Rayuth – serves up some great ice cream. Made fresh each day, it is stored across three houses in Phnom Penh and delivered to Rayuth when needed.
Coming in chocolate, strawberry, choc-chip and vanilla flavours, the ice cream is creamy and smooth. Although the flavour is rich, it’s far from the sickly sweet taste common in many local desserts. Punters can get their hands on a cone (4,000 riels) or carton (2,000/3,000 riels), with both served with a delicate dusting of hundreds and thousands. In the cone, a crunchy wafer roll replaces the chocolate flake familiar to some parts of the Western world. LouLou’s also boasts a freezer stocked full of ice pops, including an Angry Bird lolly and a traffic light lollypop. Coffee is also served.
“I’m very happy with the way things are going because there are a lot of people who see my ice-cream van and are interested, especially school children who love it,” Hong Srey Sambatha says.
“Even the older generation, who aren’t so familiar with it, are enjoying it.”
With grand plans to expand the empire to 10 vans and a fleet of tuk-tuks, LouLou’s tune could soon become one ringing right across the city.
Various locations but usually outside Raffles Hotel Le Royal on weekdays from 12pm to 2pm, then on the Riverside in the afternoon.