Bakery adding cricket protein to sandwiches

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Sandwich made with insect flour at Nutty Bakery in Tuol Tompung. Hong Menea

Located to the east of Tuol Tompoung Market, a location popular with foreigners, Nutty Bakery serves western-style sandwiches with a variety of in-house baked bread, including cricket bread.

The sandwiches are topped with a variety of gourmet meats, vegetables and dressings, and do not seethe with the legs of insects, but the imaginative baker employs a unique flour which offers more protein than regular products.

Chea Ny, known as Sokny, 27, has many years of experience, having been chef at many well known restaurants in the Kingdom – most recently Kinin.

“I sell a wide variety of sandwiches, using bread which I bake right here on the premises. I use vegetables such as pumpkin, potatoes and carrots, and also offer cricket bread, wheat bread, brown bread and whole grains, which use sunflower and sesame seeds,” he said.

For his cricket bread, Ny uses a mix of wheat flour and cricket flour, which is purchased from Angkor Cricket.

In the cosy restaurant, which features wooden furniture, plenty of pot plants and a traditional Khmer chess set, a customer was enjoying a delicious sandwich made with cricket bread.

With soft music in the background, Josh, a customer, spoke to The Post about the bakery.

“A friend of mine said to me the other day ‘I don’t usually get excited about sandwiches but you have to check these guys out’. I came by on my way to work and picked up a ham and cheese to eat at my desk. Man, it was good – I’ve been back two days in a row,” he said.

“I noticed the cricket bread on the menu and had to know more – I have heard people say that insects are a logical source of protein, as they don’t consume as many resources to farm. I’ve tried crickets as a snack, but I wasn’t sure what to expect in a baked loaf. It was a soft delicious roll, with nothing in the taste or texture that would make you think you were eating bugs,” he added.

Sokny gained experience as a chef in many top restaurants, including Plantation in Phnom Penh and Queenco Hotel in Sihanoukville, and has spent many years honing his skills in baking and preparing hot and cold meals.

He was interested in opening a western-style restaurant, but when the global pandemic hit, the young chef’s plans were put on hold.

Since seeing the gradual reopening of the Kingdom, Ny decided to go ahead with his plans and opened in Tuol Tompoung just over a month ago.

“Nutty Bakery serves sandwiches and burgers with fresh fruit juice and good coffee,” he told The Post.

Since the bakery only opened recently, he has not yet built up a large customer base, which means he does not need to bake a large number of loaves each day. Generally he bakes enough for a few days of trade at a time.

Although technically storing bread for a few days, he toasts it to about 70 per cent, and when an order arrives, it needs just 10 or so minutes to be the perfect vessel for his gourmet sandwiches.

Five types of bread are available, either to take away on their own, or ideally for one of Ny’s carefully crafted sandwiches, which range from $5.75 to $6.75.

The gourmet meat options include cured salmon with orange and beetroot, smoked beef, smoked duck breast, chicken pesto or Kampot pepper smoked ham.

He also has a rich selection of vegetarian options, including mozzarella tomato basil, baked vegetables with goat cheese and a choice of vegetables to build your own.

Customers will also notice the wide variety of fresh juices that are available.

He explained that he avoids creating excessive plastic waste by using paper to wrap his sandwiches and bamboo straws and glass bottles for his juices.

“Using glass bottles for fresh fruit juice means no plastic is created. Many of my foreign customers return the glass bottles to me, as they do not want to throw them away. Sometimes, they will leave them out for the recyclers, as they know they can sell them for extra money,” he added.

When it came to the bread made with insect flour, Ny said that demand depended on the individual customer. Some just want to taste a small piece, some will order it with no fear at all and some simply refuse to even try it.

“Cricket bread is just one of the many types I bake here. My main focus was never on insect food, and I do not intend to add more insects to the menu,” he said.

“I have to think about the feelings of my potential customers. Some customers the idea of insect based food disgusting, and do not want to even think about it. I don’t want people to get the idea that my restaurant is selling exclusively insect-based food products,” he added.

However, Ny mentioned the benefits of insect protein, which has been talked about and published in media around the world.

According to Buzz Feed News, ants, beetles, and crickets are among the nearly 2,100 species of insects that will potentially be more widely consumed in the future. This will not only benefit the planet – because they require fewer resources than traditional livestock – but also consumers, as they provide unique health benefits.

The same media said people from many countries and cultures have been consuming insects for generations because they provide good protein, fibre, iron and healthy fats.

Nutritionist Lisa Kilgour was quoted by BuzzFeed News as saying, “It’s not easy to access complete proteins, so insects could play a good role for somebody who’s looking for an Earth-friendly diet. Not everyone wants to eat a 100 per cent plant-based diet. Finding an alternative that can give me a source of easy-to-access proteins is a great thing.”

Josh said although the sandwiches were slightly pricey, they were filled with gourmet ingredients and were extremely filling.

“I generally just grab takeaway meals to eat at my desk, and these are perfect to keep me going all day. The fresh juice looks interesting, I guess I will have to come back when I have more time and work through the menu. It is a welcome addition to Tuol Tompoung, I just wish I’d discovered it earlier,” he added.