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Pudding your way around Southeast Asia

Travel. Exotic flavours.  Exciting cultures.  Exceptional journeys.  The perfect chocolate mousse. Yes you read that correctly.  I could expand the horizon and refer to it as Desserting my way Round the World or The Grand Pudding Tour which gives it more of a regal ring.  However, in my head it always started as and remained as the search for the perfect chocolate mousse.  Perhaps I hear you ask, why leave England to find something so incredibly English? I know there was no need to fly many miles away to find a passable, nay a perfectly acceptable, nay a mouth-watering chocolate mousse as I have tasted many upon my fresh Cotswold’s doorstep.  Yet, it is one of those dishes which is infinitely changeable in texture, flavour, depth and lightness.  There is no right or wrong in the glorious world of chocolate mousses and it is a dessert embraced across all cultures, thus making it the perfect bench-mark.  Obviously chocolate mousse is not the only dulci mentioned throughout The Grand Pudding Tour as one must take in local delicacies ‘when in Rome..’, but it is the sweet that will get the most column inches.

Before you can possibly wish to embark upon this personal journey of sugar and delight, we really must become more acquainted.  This is imperative so that one does not just end up shouting at this essay in a highly disagreeable way but instead the conclusions I reach can be understood before they are disagreed with.  I like chocolate.  No, I love chocolate. I crave it most of the time.  Sometimes I may be longing for something deeply, sensuously, dark, so that the bitter cocoa taste lingers in my mouth and often the mellow, sweetness of heavenly milk chocolate is required to swirl over my tongue leaving me in a cloud-like state of satisfaction.  Never is the nasty, overpoweringly sickliness of white chocolate wanted.

If I see a dessert menu, the chocolateist, richest item is ordered.  Yes, even after I’ve had a starter and a main.  Chocolate always finds a space.  I might feel sick the whole journey home, but I feel satisfied. The choice of the appetizing fruit – fuelled number is much less likely to find favour but is occasionally conceded. The very worst is if (on some ridiculous impulse) I have smilingly shaken my head at the waiter, thus rejecting all warm feelings of happiness and satisfaction that pudding ultimately brings, and someone else on the table has ordered the chocolate number from the menu.  As it arrives I can smell its sensual chocolate tones.  The person who has ordered it now devours it and declares it to be “simply gorgeous.”  I feel empty and depressed, like a child denied the fun of licking out the icing bowl, and make a promise to myself to never skip dessert again.  It really is integral to a restaurant.  It is as important as how nice the toilets are.  It really allows you to understand the sort of clientele the restaurant is aiming for, how they see themselves and the extent to which these goals have been obtained.

I also, unfortunately, do no eat wheat.  This counts out the deliciousness of chocolate cakes, double chocolate muffins, chocolate cheese cakes (well lets be honest I can just eat the filling and pile the biscuit base on to the plate of the person sitting next to me) and dark chocolate cookies. Many of these things are mentioned but I have these accounts first hand from some equally as experienced ‘afters’ connoisseurs.  Perhaps this leads you another step closer to understanding why I harbour the deep, never ending love for chocolate mousse that I do.  Plus its not something the restaurant can quickly go and buy from the supermarket next door because not only would the container would give it away, but so would the sweetly dull grey texture of the disappointing dessert.  I like to think a chocolate mousse involves some sort of preparation before the dark dish of deliciousness is served to me chilled from the fridge.

There is just one more thing to be observed before I take your hand and we begin this delectable, palatable expedition together and it is that I do not pretend to be creating an encyclopaedia of world-wide desserts.  In fact you will probably find me fairly traditional in my choice of sweet but all I am merely attempting to do is guide you to a few places that I visited that I would go return to and what I would order.  This is not in anyway a comprehensive, unbiased guide.  I am extremely prejudiced when puddings are concerned and would simply hate for you to go to these places and not be able to find a decent dessert.

Cambodia – Seam Reap

Siam Reap is a town in the north of Cambodia.  It is apparently the ‘touristy’ part of Cambodia because the great Ankor (temples) are only half an hour away.  The great sprawling, ancient beauty of the temples is almost counterbalanced by what I thought was a much more modern town than I was expecting.  Ok fine, all the roads may not bemade from tarmac, but the pavement cafes and vibrant bars more than make up for that.  After a long day in the temples I advise one to eat on the main street, cleverly entitled ‘Pub Street.’  It is slightly misleading in character as they are no pubs, more restaurants and bars, but lets not be picky.  The local cuisine dished up here is deliciously Khmer and usually has high novelty value as is served in coconuts or banana leaves.

Once your meal is over, get up and go down the road to the one place that does the best desserts in Siam Reap, the ‘Blue Pumpkin.’  This bakery-cum -café has a thoroughly modern interior.  Many people will opt for sitting outside on the pavement but don’t – especially if you are intending to eat as the flies suddenly appear from no where! Instead go through the bakery and up the stairs to the top to the white chill out room.  The seats are long bed seats with tables that slide over your laps.  If you looked closely and you weren’t so comfortable you might start to think this is a bit too clinical.  But no hospital can serve desserts like this.

The ‘Blue Pumpkin’ is well known for its delicious and extensive range of ice creams.  If you have an ice cream almost anywhere else in Siam Reap, look carefully at the menu as it is likely that it is ice cream from Blue Pumpkin.  So here I am with the tricky situation of do I go for the chocolate ice cream or try some special local one?  Chocolate is quickly decided upon although I was tempted by the green tea ice cream.  To compromise I decide to also get one of their excellent shakes for the vague health aspect.  My decisions are not yet done.  Now there is double chocolate, mocha or milk chocolate to decide upon.  I confused the staff completely when I ask which is the Choclatiest.  Their English is superb except when I make up words.  Finally after much painstaking weighing up of the pros and cons of each flavour, and a promise from my companions that if I just hurry up and choose we can come here again, a twin scoop of double chocolate ice cream with baileys, Khalua and chocolate fudge sauce is agreed upon.

When it arrives I am not disappointed. The ice cream is just as I could’ve wished.  Darkly, seductively, rich with a pleasurable kick of alcohol.  Or so I thought at the beginning.  By the time I reach about half way down my glass, I am now eating luscious cool ice cream the colour of black coffee but with the overpowering smack of pure alcohol.  I forgot that Cambodians don’t seem to use measures the same way as the English do.

I look over at my fellow travellers.  One of them opted for some sort of local fruit flavours with a jungle cookie and a touch of Malibu but from her face I can see that perhaps the alcohol has been overdone again but she’s enjoying it.  I suggest she asks for a straw instead of her spoon. My other friend has opted for a dessert I am deeply jealous over.  It’s a chocolate fondant pudding with ice cream.  The vanilla ice cream that accompanies it is apparently very nice but all my instincts are honed in on the small but perfectly formed warm chocolate cake sitting on her plate.  I debate pulling the ‘look behind you’ line while I quickly grab the cake, but I fear she is sitting too far away and I wouldn’t get away with it. And I didn’t order it after all as I do have a wheat intolerance so it is probably for the best that I stuck with the ice cream.  I watch my friend slide her fork into the light fold of the cake and as she breaks a piece off its so fresh it hardly crumbles.  As she slides the morsel into her mouth she smiles.  Damn it. It looks so good.  She then declares it ‘the best dessert ever.’  I think that’s probably pushing it as she hasn’t tasted my mum’s chocolate torte but I allow her the moment of pleasure and order myself a cappuccino. (Incidentally, if one where looking for a good cup of coffee I would point you just down the road from the Blue Pumpkin, towards the river, to the Warehouse.  You get your own cafetiere and fresh milk. Delicieoux.)

The Blue Pumpkin definitely scored top marks from me.  I would definitely return  here; the welcoming staff, the relaxed atmosphere and the wonderful food make it a real gem of a place. Although I am slightly worried that will anything else be able to live up to it? Siam Reap and the Blue Pumpkin and have set something of a high precedent.

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