Instagram is becoming more and more popular in Cambodia, and it shows at the Phnom Penh cafes, where photogenic food and beverages are competing for the attention from Phnom Penh teenagers with new smartphones and short attention spans.
When I was in Phnom Penh in May this year, you would only rarely see people sneak out their phones to take photos of their food, but when I was back in October, every person under the age of 30 were engaging in the camera-eats-first ritual at the cafes in the city. But how do you navigate this wonderful new world of ‘grammable food? Where is the best brown sugar boba? And is everything really better with cheese? I have teamed up with Kanary’s daughter Katherine to put together this list of what is trending right now.
Brown Sugar Bubble Tea
Brown sugar boba has been huge in Asia for a while, and you’ll find this super tasty flavor at all the popular boba cafes in Phnom Penh. Brown sugar boba tastes like caramel with a hint of coffee. It is slightly more grownup than regular bobas and often packed with other stuff such as coffee jelly or a cheese lid (yes, cheese, more on that below:)), which almost makes the boba a meal in itself. There are several places in Phnom Penh to go and get your brown sugar boba fix, but some of the most popular ones are Tiger Sugar in BKK street 51, KOI (several locations), The Alley and Kamu Tea.
Everything with cheese
Cheese makes everything better and in Phnom Penh you’ll find cheese along with pretty much everything. The cheese is usually cream cheese or melted cheese of the mild, mozzarella-like kind, so don’t worry about smelly cheese fingers or Stilton breath. Some of the more successful cheese combos I’ve tried are the Korean Tteokbokki with cheese at Caputea (that one is really nice) and the cheese tea at Heekcaa.
Frozen yogurt at Llaollao
For froyo, Llaollao is the place to go. I love frozen yogurt and the more froyo outlets the better, but except from the logo and the fact that Pinkberry is not in Phnom Penh, I still haven’t managed to figure out the difference between the Spanish chain Llaollao and Pinkberry from the US. To me they taste exactly the same, and the concept with different kinds of toppings is also similar. Anyway, if you like Pinkberry you will most certainly like Llaollao.
Multi-colored iced tea
Iced fruit tea is another big trend right now, and the more colors you can squeeze into one cup, the better. Some of them have additional stuff such as fresh fruit and jelly added, and most of them are very sweet, but I liked the blue and pink tea I had at NX Bakehouse. Their Eggs Benedict with chili hollandaise is another reason to visit.
The sea salt softserve at Agua S
The signature sea salt soft serve at the Australian chain is what everybody is craving right now. Salty soft serve tastes a lot better than it sounds, and that Agua blue color looks gorgeous on Instagram, so there is no doubt that both Agua S and salty soft serve are here to stay. Though when it comes to salty soft serve, my heart belongs to Salty Pimp at Big Gay Ice Cream in New York City.
Animal cafes have been big in Phnom Penh for a while, but I am not a fan, so I am just going to mention this briefly. Some of the cafes even have wild animals as the major attraction (at one place you can pet a raccoon) which just seems wrong in so many ways. The only animal cafe I have tried so far is Chhma, which is a traditional cat cafe. At Chhma, there are boxes and little hideaways installed close to the ceiling, so the cats can hide if they don’t feel like interacting with the visiting humans, and the overall welfare of the felines seemed ok.