After finding success selling her home-pickled fermented mangoes online, Serey Hannika decided to diversify her offerings and open a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the Borey Peng Hout Boeung Snor gated community in the capital’s Chbar Ampov district to satisfy her growing list of customers.
First, she expanded her online menu to test the waters and after receiving encouragement from family, friends and customers, she opened her physical eatery, called Good Taste Ptas Bai Puy Puy (Good Taste Puy Puy’s Kitchen).
Dishes start at $3 and each item has been personally vetted by her friends or family, ensuring only quality meals end up on diners’ plates.
Hannika, 38, tells The Post: “My family loves to eat dishes that I make for them and we frequently cook and enjoy meals together at home.
“They love it, and not only my family. My friends also kept pushing me to open a restaurant. That’s where it all started and we brought every dish we enjoy at home to our eatery.”
The restaurant’s quirky name raises the eyebrows of curious customers, but Hannika has her reasons.
“It started one day when we were live-streaming and customers asked for the name [of her business]. At that time my sister [named Puy Puy] was online alone.
“She immediately came up with the idea of naming it Ptas Bai, which in English means kitchen. It’s a very simple term since we were cooking in our home kitchen,” she says.
Good Taste has been serving food for two years – a year online and another at her restaurant.
Breaking down the menu
Hannika, who is also a CTN television sports reporter, says her recipes are inspired by Thai and Western cuisines.
Good Taste’s most popular dishes are Mokatha BBQ soup, Tampa (a Thai dish) with salmon and prawns, spicy crab, fried chicken knees and oysters.
“Tampa is like a papaya salad but there are vegetables [and other ingredients] added like moon-round eggplant, green bananas, climbing wattle mashed with sea crab, prawns and snails. Any seafood they would love, or Khmer noodles with salmon.
“Mokatha is barbequed bacon, beef and seafood with soup and plenty of vegetables,” she says.
Hannika offers a sweet fish sauce or a tofu sauce, both inspired by Thai cuisine, to complement her dishes.
Many of the ingredients are bought at the local market, but she has a regular supplier as well.
“We have our supplier whom we can trust. We always make sure that all of our vegetables and meats are safe for our customers to consume. We know where our products come from,” she says.
Hannika does not handle kitchen duties, but every process is thoroughly checked by her.
“Although I had never owned a restaurant, we started like a termite nest, from small to big, we sort of learned little by little. We have had quite some time to digest [the process] at our own pace,” she says.
Hannika says she wants customers to feel as comfortable as if they’re in their own home.
“The service is an important angle we focus on,” she says.
Her humbly decorated eatery may feel cosy but it can fit up to 100 customers at once.
A selection of wine is available at affordable prices to accompany Hannika’s homespun meals.
Struggling through Covid
Lately, Hannika has faced obstacles encountered by many restaurant owners in Phnom Penh. Covid-19 and adverse weather have thrown a wrench into her business plan as customers cling to their money and eat at home.
She says she’s been able to stay afloat thanks to delivery and takeaway orders.
“These problems affect everyone but I prefer to think positively. This will end and I just hope things will fall back into place soon,” she says.
She says anyone wishing to book a private party or celebration at her eatery will receive 10 per cent off their bill.
Good Taste Ptas Bai Puy Puy is open every day except public holidays. Delivery orders can be placed from 11am and the restaurant is open from 4pm to midnight.
It’s address is #277 & #279 Borey Peng Hout (Boeung Snor), Street Polaris Project 7, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.