Victoria’s Country Cob Bakery achieved a remarkable triumph at the Baking Association of Australia’s annual awards, with their fish amok pie taking home the gold medal in Australia’s Best Pie 2023 category.
The victory, announced on June 3 after three days of intense competition, defied expectations, as the fish amok pie stood out among the traditional favourites.
This innovative creation seamlessly combines the flavours of Cambodian cuisine with the artistry of pastry-making, showcasing the bakery’s commitment to culinary excellence.
The executive officer from Baking Association of Australia, Tony Smith spoke of his surprise: “Everyone always expects a meat pie to win, but everyone said [the fish amok pies] were very good”.
Brothers Khun Ryan and Khun Chan, the talented bakers behind the winning creation, had their sights set on claiming the 2023 accolade after having already received the esteemed awards consecutively from 2018 to 2020.
What fills them with immense pride is not only the recognition but also their contribution of the Amok pie to the competition, showcasing the rich flavours of the Cambodian fish curry encased in a delectable pastry.
“We love incorporating delicious flavours into our pies, including curry, chicken, Cambodian beef, lemongrass sour soup, and hot chilli basil leaves,” Ryan told The Post. “People in Australia particularly enjoy our amok pie because of its rich blend of spices and coconut milk”.
With 345 participants from across Australia and a total of 1,600 pies and pasties submitted for judging over three days, the competition was fierce.
Ryan explained the meticulous judging process, involving the visual assessment of the pies’ aesthetics and the tasting of heated samples to determine the recipients of gold, silver, and bronze medals.
Among the gold medal contenders, Ryan’s pie stood out as a worthy contender for the award he had just received on earlier of June.
With each passing year, the competition among bakeries intensifies, and the judges are on the lookout for innovative and fresh entries.
Ryan and Chan decided to enter all seven flavours from their menu into the competition, including chicken, seafood, beef, veggies, and mushrooms.
“I wanted to showcase all the flavours that we offer, including a unique seafood pie inspired by the traditional Khmer dish called amok fish. It’s a pie with a distinct Khmer taste that no one has ever seen or tasted before,” said chef Ryan.
Recognising the rising popularity of amok as a delightful national dish, Ryan embarked on researching and experimenting with a variety of Khmer ingredients, blending them with some Western influences to create the perfect pie.
He emphasised that even though it’s a favourite among Australians and Cambodians alike, he didn’t forget the essential elements such as lemon leaves, kaffir lime leaves, and the distinct chewy texture that defines amok.
“The Australian journalists were amazed and intrigued by this unique pie. They had never encountered anything like it before. It’s a fusion of a French style tourte with authentic Khmer flavours”.
Ryan, 39, took the opportunity to share the tradition with the judges, Australian journalists, and his guests about the rich history of Amok, highlighting its roots in ancient times as a royal delicacy.
In response to the curiosity of the Australian media regarding the amok pie, Ryan gladly dedicated a day to answering their questions and promoting his distinctly Cambodian dish to the international culinary community.
In 2012, Ryan embarked on an adventure to work in Australia, where he joined his brother Chan and two sisters. Initially a student pursuing further education, Ryan decided to settle in Australia permanently, as he had started a family there.
He joined his brother, who had been working in various industries in Australia back in 2005. Both brothers ran their first bakery which focused on bread production.
However, circumstances changed, and they were unable to continue operating the bakery. Eventually, they made the decision to sell the bakery and work for someone else for a year. During this time, they began contemplating the idea of setting up their own bakery once again, this time a pie shop.
The brothers’ inventive approach, complemented by their sisters’ management skills and a dedicated team of Cambodian staff, has resonated with the diverse Asian population in Australia, introducing them to unique pie flavours and earning them praise.
In a world where traditional beef pies once dominated, the Khun brothers’ pioneering spirit and willingness to push boundaries have ushered in a new era of flavours, captivating palates and establishing a welcomed identity for Cambodian-inspired pies.
The fusion of French-style pie with authentic Khmer ingredients has delighted Australian journalists and intrigued customers, fostering a curiosity about the rich history and cultural heritage behind each delectable creation.
Over that time, they’ve won more than 350 trophies and medals for their baked goods.
The success of Country Cobb Bakery is a testament to their continuous innovation and dedication to showcasing diverse flavours.
The two brothers’ commitment to creating Khmer-style pies has not only attracted a loyal customer base but has also promoted the Cambodian culinary identity to the international community.
Customers arriving at the bakery have made ordering the “Cambodia pie” a habit, highlighting the distinctiveness and popularity of their offerings.
“This is why we always create Khmer-style pies. If our Khmer pies can earn international titles, it will help establish our identity and highlight our history,” said Ryan.
As the reputation of Country Cobb Bakery continues to grow, they witness a surge in regular customers, particularly during the weeks following their award announcements and media coverage.
To meet the increased demand, the bakery recruits additional employees and extends their operating hours.
Ryan remains committed to innovation, continuously exploring new flavours and ensuring the popular amok pie remains at the forefront of their offerings.
“Amok pie is highly popular, and we are continuously innovating to offer new flavours,” Ryan said.
Beyond their success, the bakery chefs are eager to share their knowledge with those who aspire to learn the art of pie-making.
Ryan invites those interested to join the bakery as employees, providing them with both income and invaluable expertise.
“My invitation to anyone seeking to uncover the secrets of our unique creations reflects my commitment to nurturing a new generation of pie enthusiasts,” he said.
Despite the challenges faced due to the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures, Country Cobb Bakery has consistently excelled. In 2022, their pies earned three additional awards, and this year, they clinched four awards along with their major triumph.