Oodles of noodles get the gift of a very special status

Sok Chan

Famous Phnom Penh breakfast dish is awarded a rare collective trademark that will standardise the food, ensure good hygiene and enable it to compete on both a national and international scale

Famous Phnom Penh breakfast dish is awarded a rare collective trademark that will standardise the food, ensure good hygiene and enable it to compete on both a national and international scale

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After the government launched a new collective trademark covering one of the capital’s most famous breakfast dishes, “Phnom Penh Noodles” in October this year, it left some unclear issues in terms of regulations and guidelines of using the brand name among the restaurants in the Kingdom.

The Phnom Penh Noodle, a famous dish typically eaten for breakfast in Phnom Penh, is the fifth trademark recognised by the Cambodian government. Its special launch  comes with a new quality assurance management system and hygiene standards.

It is also to preserve the recipe and ingredient, knowledge and skills used to make it as well as providing job opportunities and generating more income for the people, says Chef Song Teng, president of the Cambodia Chef Association (CCA).

Song says all operators in the hospitality and restaurant sector, as well as food merchants, are required to register with the CCA if they want to sell and to serve Phnom Penh Noodles in their restaurants.

He adds that the registration will be free of charge for the shops and restaurants that have fewer than 40 chairs. But those with more have to pay a fee of $50 a year. The fee will be used to support the association and help market the product.

“There will be a penalty for those who are using the logo or the name of Phnom Penh Noodle in a menu without a licence or consent,” chef Song adds. He has yet to disclosed in detail what the penalty will be, but he adds that the association will cooperate with the Ministry of Commerce to work on this matter.

The “Phnom Penh Noodle Collective Mark” was initiated by the Ministry of Commerce and aims at building a new business model, creating a clear brand identity that simplifies consumers’ choices with a protected registration at the national and international level. It will be used as a joint marketing tool and able to compete on a national and international scale.

The trademark also promotes and preserves the knowledge of traditional recipes, hygiene standards and the reputation of “Phnom Penh Noodle – or Kuyteav Phnom Penh” – with its long history, promotion and strengthened management of the common brand of “Phnom Penh noodle” both locally and internationally, while encouraging innovation and skills training for the next generation of culinary arts.

“The collective mark will also promote the noodle business in particular, help small noodle merchants benefit from this brand of ‘Phnom Penh Noodle’ and use the collective brand ‘Phnom Penh noodle as a favourite dish to attract more tourists to Cambodia,” according to the Ministry of Commerce.

When it comes to the guidelines, penalty and regulations of the use of the Phnom Penh Noodle Collective Mark, it is unclear, say Park Cafe’s Managing Director Heng Sengly, who is in charge of the 16 outlets in Cambodia.

Heng says that Park Cafe has served and promoted Phnom Penh Noodles for many years. His restaurant promoted them before this noodle gained its auspicious collective mark.

“For us, it is part of boosting and strengthening the brand of the Phnom Penh Noodle. Before, we were promoting it alone because we wanted to promote Khmer products, but now we see the support from the government, so it is part of boosting the Khmer food industry to have a more famous name than foreign foods,” Heng adds.

“We are not sure that it is illegal to sell this noodle or not because we are serving it every day and our menu has also listed Phnom Penh Noodles for many years,” Heng adds. “For us, the brand of Phnom Penh Noodles – we had it for many years on our menu. But if there is a regulation or criteria required for us to register with the CCA to get fully certified, we will follow them,” Heng adds.

Heng says he is aware of the announcement that the Phnom Penh Noodle gained the collective mark; but, he said there was no  promotion or any regulation demanding restaurant operators to register with the CCA to oblige the use of the collective mark in the restaurants.

“We do not know the details of the regulations – whether the taste of Phnom Penh Noodles which gained the collective mark is the same as what we are serving every day. We do not know. I just know that the government supports the Phnom Penh Noodles in gaining the collective mark, but we do not know the details,” he adds.

At present, Park Cafe is serving Phnom Penh Noodles in its restaurants. However, Park Cafe has not yet registered with the CCA to have the collective mark logo.

Heng believes that the recipe of Phnom Penh Noodles is just part of the collective mark, but it is not the key. The taste of Phnom Penh Noodles would be different because each chef has their own secret for the taste.

“We will follow if there is regulation required. We will not argue,” he adds. “We do not know whether we will be penalised or what kind of penalties there will be. We are lacking information,” Heng points out.

Given the Phnom Penh Noodle now has the collective mark, it is a sign to show to food and beverage business operators about the value of Khmer products, says Heng.

“The Phnom Penh noodle has its special recipe and ingredients. If food operators and restaurants want to serve Phnom Penh Noodles, they have to use the recipe and ingredients provided by the CCA. It means that they have to follow the CCA’s guidelines,” Song says. “To have it, they have to register with the CCA,” he adds.

Chef Song says that all restaurants can sell their normal noodles but if they want use the brand Phnom Penh Noodles in their menu, they have to register with the CCA. “If they sell normal noodles without the name of Kuyteav Phnom Penh, it is okay,” he says. “We have yet promoted it widely. We are working with the ministry of commerce,” Song said.

Chef Song adds that although some restaurants have been serving Phnom Penh Noodles for many years, and if they fail to register with the CCA to be certified for using the capital’s most famous breakfast dish, they cannot sell it,” he adds.

He says the collective mark will promote Khmer noodles. It is also to identify Khmer food because other countries have their special foods such as Stilton Cheese in the UK and Champagne in France.

Many countries have identity foods. For example, Thailand is famous for Phad Thai, a stir-fried rice noodle dish, while Vietnam is famous for Pho, a Vietnamese soup consisting of broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat, while Malaysia and Singapore are famous for Laksa is a spicy noodle soup.

“Therefore, Cambodia also has its special dish, Phnom Penh Noodle,” says Op Rady, director of the department of intellectual property of the Ministry of Commerce. He adds that it is the collective mark, so for those who want to use this mark in their restaurants they can register with CCA.

“Regarding the penalty, we will work with the Ministry of Commerce,” chef Song adds.

He says the association will have a working group to go to check each restaurant that claims to sell Phnom Penh Noodles whether they register or not or whether they are fully compliant with the guidelines. “We will ask the Ministry of Commerce to take action about penalties.”

“If they are not the members of the Cambodia Chef Association, they cannot use the mark Phnom Penh Noodle since there are criteria in the association. “When the restaurants are using the logo without consent, it is illegal,” Op adds. Every use of the logo of the collective mark Phnom Penh Noodle must be licensed,” he adds.

At present, more than 30 restaurants have registered in the association to be eligible for using the logo, recipe and certification of the Phnom Penh Noodle mark in their shops and restaurants. There is a minimum standard of using the ingredients when they register. They will get trained, given guidelines, checked for their recipes, including meat, soup and otherelements, Op points out.

Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak, said at the launch of the Phnom Penh Noodle Collective Mark in October that the Ministry of Commerce has set up a brand name “Phnom Penh Noodle” which is a new achievement, under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organizsation and its stakeholders.

The launch of the brand “Phnom Penh Noodle” will be accompanied by a new quality assurance management system and hygiene standards in brand building, and potential services in Cambodia.

At present, Besides the Phnom Penh Noodle Collective trademark, there is also a certification mark for the rice brand Malys Angkor as well as geographical indication (GI) marks for Koh Trung Pomelo, Kampot Pepper and Kampong Speu Palm Sugar.

“If they (restaurants and shops) list Phnom Penh Noodle in the menu without registration, they will be penalised if found out,” Op stresses.

“The commerce ministry will work with the CCA to set up the penalty mechanism,” he adds.

He says that there is a working group from the CCA to make on-site checks at each restaurant that claims to serve Phnom Penh Noodles on the quality, hygiene and other guidelines. Op says that the use of the logo will boost other more popular goods that can sell well.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, more than 1,283 local marks and 2,202 international marks were registered with the Ministry of Commerce in the first 10 months of this year. It increased by about 8.33 per cent compared with the same period last year.

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