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Crackle and pop

Chivorn Hok, who set up Cob Cafe, discovered different flavours of popcorn when she tried the handcrafted gourmet brand Garratt in Bangkok three years ago.
Chivorn Hok, who set up Cob Cafe, discovered different flavours of popcorn when she tried the handcrafted gourmet brand Garratt in Bangkok three years ago. Charlotte Pert

Crackle and pop

Fancy something sticky with wonderful flavours? Cob Cafe’s popcorn might be just for you

Walking into Cob Cafe is like strolling through the gates of Cambodia’s very own Willy Wonka factory. The Boeung Keng Kang establishment, which opened its doors in February, specialises in weird and wonderful flavours of popcorn – from the regular caramel and salty to kiwi, green tea and cucumber.

Situated on Street 392, the café is the brainchild of business graduate Chivorn Hok, 25, who discovered different popcorn flavours when she tried the handcrafted gourmet brand Garratt in Bangkok three years ago.

“I wanted to start a new business that nobody had done before. Coffee is everywhere, but popcorn hasn’t caught on,” said Hok, adding that she hopes to start a new craze among young, affluent Cambodians. “If there is something new, they will try it.”

The snack has experienced a surge in worldwide popularity, with the global popcorn sector worth $7.78 billion last year. That figure is set to rise to $10.38bn by 2018, according to market research company Euromonitor International.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

But until Cob Cafe came along, Phnom Penh’s offerings were limited to the plain popcorn at street stalls and the caramel, sweet and salty boxes available at one of the capital’s two major cinemas.

The magic at Cob Cafe happens in a kitchen around the back. Hok makes the popcorn herself using a special machine, and following recipes from the US and others she has created herself. The ingredients are imported from Thailand, China and the US.

The flavours are distinctive. The strawberry, caramel and white chocolate flavours constitute what is possibly the sweetest snack available in the city while Cob Pepper has a discernable kick. The more fruity flavours – orange, apple, kiwi and lemon – taste like sweets that crack and dissolve in the mouth.

Compared to street popcorn available for less than $1, prices are high: about $3 for a regular sized box and $4 to $5 for a large size. Nonetheless, the shop seems to already be enjoying regular custom.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Somsen Sron, 27, was in the cafe, enjoying a box of dark chocolate popcorn – her favourite flavour – with a friend. She used to eat a different variety sold on the side of the road, but stopped doing that once she discovered Cob Cafe.

“There are different flavours of popcorn here, which you can’t get anywhere else in Phnom Penh,” she said. “I don’t like roadside popcorn anymore, because they only have plain popcorn.”

Hok is now experimenting with making popcorn in a wine flavour. But she’ll be giggling to herself for now – it’s not yet available to sell.

Cob Cafe is at #16, Street 392, Boeung Keng Kang. Open 7am-7:30pm every day.

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