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Khmer Brothers Dominate Australia’s Pie Scene with Homeland Flavors

AUSTRALIA: Country Cob Bakery in Australia’s Victoria province is a culinary destination bringing together locals, tourists and a migrant Asian population to share in their love for delicious and innovative food. Established by two Cambodian brothers in 2016, the bakery is renowned for winning over 350 awards making one of Australia’s staple dishes-the humble meat pie. This year, their Khmer-inspired fish amok pie garnered their fourth “Best Pie in Australia” title. EAC News had the opportunity to speak with the brothers about their journey from Phnom Penh to Melbourne and what they’ve experienced along the way.

Fulfilling a childhood dream to move abroad, Chan left for Australia in 2004 where he began working in factories. It was there that he learned about Australia's love for pie when trucks would sell them during lunch breaks. It was not long before he opted for a change in career and spent his days in school learning to be a pastry chef, and his nights working as an assistant baker.

His brother Ryan joined him in Australia in 2012, having left his work as a computer technician and looking for a fresh start. The brothers bought a bakery in 2016 to focus on pies and cakes and since then they have been turning out some of Australia’s best pies. They won their first “Best Pie in Australia” award in 2018 with a seafood-satay pie. In an unprecedented move, they became the first reigning champions of the contest with a caramelized pork and pepper pie in 2019 and a beef pepper pie in 2020.

With roots in Phnom Penh’s Orussey district, the brothers find inspiration in the flavors of their home country. After eating a delicious home-cooked fish amok from his mother, Ryan had the idea to use Cambodia’s national dish in a traditional Australian pie.”It would be something that we’ve never seen in Australia,” he said, “So we asked mom,’what are the main ingredients in here, what is the preparation, what is the process?’”

With an understanding of the recipe, they then faced the challenge of using ingredients that were more readily available in Australia. “You need a mix of herbs and spices to make it unique,” said Ryan, “We’ve been trying for quite some time to get the right recipe.”

And get it right they did. This year they won the “Best Pie in Australia” award for the fourth time with the fish amok pie, in addition to winning first prize for Best Beef Pepper Pie, Best Mushroom Pie, Best Traditional Pastry and Best Seafood Pie. Word has spread about the brothers’ culinary excellence and since winning these last awards, Ryan says they make about 3,000 pies a week. They find inspiration in the smiles their pies bring.

“All the customers love our pie. Everytime they have a pie they smile. They come back. They bring the family,” said Chan, “That motivates us to make more variety and more flavors of pie that can make everyone happy.”

Talking to the brothers, it’s clear that their love for what they do and who they serve is responsible for the many accolades their creations continue to receive. Their talent for presenting Southeast Asian flavors in an Australian format is a winning combination that they will continue to use to innovate and produce pies that everyone can enjoy.

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