A visit to Cambodia will reveal some weird and wonderful delicacies that will leave you either licking your lips for more or gagging, because in the Kingdom of Wonder almost anything goes. Here, we throw the spotlight on some of the more unusual dishes you’re likely to come across during your travels.
The snack of deep-fried tarantula goes down a treat in Cambodia, with locals loving to munch on the crunchy spiders. Commonly deep-fried with chilli, the tarantula is crispy on the outside, with the body often containing a warm liquid centre of intestinal juice. And if you’re lucky, you may even bite into a pregnant female full of eggs. Yum. Skuon, in between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, is where the majority of tarantulas are caught – by hand – in the jungle before being sold across the country. They can be bought at many street carts across the country, or Romdeng restaurant in Phnom Penh plates them with black pepper and lime sauce.
Scorpion on a stick
If chomping down on a spider doesn’t appeal, then try scorpion instead – Angelina Jolie sampled the delights of scorpion and tarantula during a 2016 trip to the country. The predatory arachnids are skewered on a stick and barbecued, before being scoffed as another crunchy snack, said to be filled with protein. These are sold by street vendors in the popular tourist traps of Siem Reap centre and along Phnom Penh’s riverside.
You’ll definitely need something to wash these snacks down with, so why not try some snake wine? The daunting looking beverage is usually made by infusing a whole snake – or scorpion – into a bottle of home-brewed rice wine packed with medicinal herbs. This is left to steep for several months. Another version sees the body fluids of snakes mixed into the wine and drunk straight away as a shot.
Another common munch to keep hunger at bay is deep-fried crickets. Cooked with garlic and chilli – these flavours overpower any taste of insect, so don’t worry – they are literally devoured like the western world scoffs chocolate by Cambodians. Also packed full of protein, crickets and other similar insects are said to be one solution to global food poverty by the World Health Organisation, making them a sort of super food.
You will commonly come across the sight of a Cambodia chowing down on what innocently seems to be a hard-boiled egg on the outside. However, the inside reveals a whole different story because often these will be duck, or chicken, eggs with a foetus inside. The fertilised egg is usually incubated for 14 to 21 days and then boiled or steamed. The contents are then eaten directly from the shell, usually warm. The development of the embryo differs, with some of the bones are soft and easy to chew, while other eggs come complete with an almost baby bird containing a few feathers.