Matt Surrusco and photographer Lim Sokchanlina taste the breakfast, lunch and dinner options, including pepper ham and eggs, savoury pies, satisfying pierogi and fresh baked bread and desserts, at the Pelican Food Company.
The Pelican Food Company started as a small shop selling savoury pies, mostly for takeaway, on Phnom Penh’s Street 278 in 2010. Since then, it has morphed into a larger catering and wholesale operation and expanded its offerings.
But despite its growth, Pelican’s cosy café, situated just a few blocks from its original location, retains a homey aesthetic and a menu full of homemade comfort food, including pies, sandwiches, Polish dumplings, and fresh baked bread and desserts.
The eatery provides a comfortable setting – with kitschy, mismatched decor and repurposed crates, gates and wood pallets for furniture – to nosh and nibble with friends or colleagues.
Owner Ewa Jankowska, an economist by education from Poland who bought Pelican from the original owner in 2013, started us off with the big breakfast ($6). It includes two eggs, spicy slices of Kampot pepper ham from local butchers, Danmeat, cheese, tomato and homemade bread.
We tasted slices of sourdough with seeds and challah, slightly sweet with sesame seeds, both distinct and especially delicious with a smear of dried cranberry and apricot jam, also homemade.
To perk up, order a French press ($1.95), with a sand timer provided to clock an optimal three-minute brewing time. The robust coffee is from Rumble Fish Roasters in Kampot.
Another option is one of seven organic herbal teas ($2.50 for a small pot). The stinging nettle tea was earthy and refreshing, and, according to the menu, “helps relieve muscle and joint pain” and other bodily ailments. Later, we sipped a ginger-honey-turmeric lemonade ($2), which was super sweet, cool and refreshing.
Moving on to lunch, the salad is big enough to share ($4.50), and comprises green lettuce, tomato, grilled courgette and a generous spread of walnuts, sunflower seeds and sundried tomato, served with your choice of grilled chicken, tuna, feta cheese or hard-boiled egg and homemade bread. The feta crumbles paired pleasantly with the simple dressing of olive oil, lime, salt and pepper.
Next up, Poland’s version of dumplings. The five varieties of boiled pierogi ($3.85 for 10) we tasted were each delicious, some with especially tasty fillings, including the chicken, spinach and sundried tomato, and mushroom and parsley. The latter filling, Jankowska says, is her grandmother’s recipe – although she used wild mushrooms from the forests of Poland. And the fried onion and sour cream fixings only add to the flavours hidden inside each pocket of unleavened dough.
With half-dozen savoury puff pastry pies to choose from ($3.85), we tasted the beef and green peppercorn pie which was spicy and delicious, and highlighted the whole Kampot peppercorns, the youngest of the pepper varieties.
For dessert, the pecan pie and cheesecake ($3.85 per slice) were both sugary, satisfying and luckily available by slice or the whole pie or cake.