Visit to Zita's Bang Bang Bakery in Siem Reap
Hi folks. Very long time no post. I felt I just had to emerge from obscurity to let you know about my recent visit to Zita's Bang Bang Bakery in Siem Reap, Cambodia. (Zita's handle on TFL is BakingBadly, which I can tell you must be read as supremely ironic!).
Fortunately, our hotel (the Mekong Angkor Boutique Hotel - great value BTW) was just 10 minutes' walk away from Bang Bang Bakery according to Googlemaps . It seemed longer and we were relieved to locate the bakery, which looks gleaming new.
Retreating inside out of the building heat and humidity, we asked for Zita. There's a good reason he wasn't front of house. As the sole baker he's always on the graveyard shift. He hadn't mentioned that to me when agreeing to my suggested meet-up time of 10.30am. I imagine he would far rather have been off premises and catching up with some zzzs in bed than meeting up with someone whose only connection with him was The Fresh Loaf. The camaraderie of bakers...
My partner and I both liked Zita a lot. He's centred and quietly spoken, LISTENS (something of a rarity these days, I find), and is considered and articulate in conversation. Lovely young bloke. Need I say, he's the one on the left?
We had a really enjoyable chat about baking and Cambodia. Zita's taken on some serious challenges in establishing a commercial artisan bakery in Siem Reap. Followers of his blog posts on The Fresh Loaf will be acquainted with some of these, so I will not detail them here. Suffice to say, I greatly admire him for his courage and persistence in pushing on through all the barriers.
Here's some pics of Bang Bang's produce - I'll zip up and let them do the talking. The cakes, by the way, are the work of Zita's talented partner (Jana, from memory - do I have that right, Zita?).
I sampled one of Zita's bagels back in the hotel and am pleased (but not surprised) to report that it lived up to expectations.
Thank you, Zita, for meeting up with us and showing us your bakery, and may you, Jana and your business prosper. You deserve to.
To any readers thinking of visiting Siem Reap, I say do it. It's a very tourist-friendly town, somehow without being too touristy. There are restaurants everywhere serving Khmer food and all sorts of cuisines. Mostly v good quality and very cheap (high-end is there if you want that). The beers are cold and at 50c each during all-day "Happy Hour" are hard to resist. But of course, the great attraction is Angkor Wat. The entire vast temple complex - and especially Angkor Wat itself - is truly a wonder of humanity. I've been to every country in SE Asia, and India, and have seen a lot of temples, but Angkor Wat is really something else. Then there are the Cambodian people themselves, whom we found delightful, and I'm not just referring to hospitality staff. They're not only charming, but have a ready sense of humour, and they don't mind paying out on tourists as well as each other. I observed to Zita that they seemed to me to be a nation of jokers, and he agreed.
And if you make it to Siem Reap and have a day off from hard-core temple clambering, do make the effort to pop into Bang Bang Bakery, sample the wares, and have a chat with Zita if he's there. I'm so glad we did.
PS: An update from Zita: he now has an assistant night baker, so hopefully that should lighten his load somewhat - and give him some nights off.