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7 Weird and Wonderful Things I Ate in Cambodia

Cambodian food

I recently came across a viral video where a couple of girls fried and ate tarantulas in Cambodia. Although my first thought was ‘why?’, it got me thinking…it’s experiences like these that make cultures so different and interesting from the Western traditions we are used to. This is what made me promise myself to try this local delicacy if I ever visited Cambodia.

So…visit Cambodia and keep my promise I did. Unless you have a strong stomach, this is probably not for you. You have been warned.

Shahen with a Taratantula - Image: Emma Pipe

Shahen with a Taratantula

Image: Emma Pipe

Tarantula

Let’s dig in shall we? (Sorry, couldn’t help myself). As much as I would like to make this sound appetising, I can’t. When a tarantula is served on a plate, that’s exactly what it looks like. A whole, furry tarantula, fried  and the lot on a plate. Once you build up the courage to pick it up and chow down however, your taste buds will come to the realisation that it kind of tastes like bacon. Light, hollow fluffy sticks of bacon.

Tasted like: hollow bacon

Where: Friends-International Futures Factory – Phnom Penh

Friendly advice: eat the legs first. Then the head/body

After that the voice in my head started to speak up. Why stop with a spider? There are so many weird and wonderful things to try here…

Crickets - Image: Karen Whale

Crickets

Image: Karen Whale

Crickets

This is certainly one of the lighter options from the menu and on the palate. Don’t be put off by its size though. These tiny critters are made up of 65% protein and contain all the essential amino acids, Omega-3s, Omega-6s, B12 and more, making it a slightly crunchy, seasoned and, ultimately, healthy snack. This was actually one of my favourites from this weird list and one I would definitely try again.

Tasted like: dried shrimp

Where: the small town of Skuon

Friendly advice: try the smaller crickets before attempting the larger ones

Silkworm

Silkworm

Silkworm

I’m afraid to say that silkworm was as disgusting to eat as it sounds and looks. I spent a lot of time contemplating whether to even try it, but I decided to be brave. After a very thorough selection process (aka, finding the most fried worm to avoid the ‘squishy’ texture these little guys are known for) I carefully selected my victim. Whilst the outer shell had a slightly crispy texture, the inside was everything I was hoping it wouldn’t be. Although you can eat the worm straight after the extraction of silk, fried is the preferred method of cooking over here.

Frog’s Legs

Ever seen those survival shows where they eat all kinds of weird meats and compare them to chicken? I can actually vouch for this one. If it wasn’t for the size of its distinctive muscly legs, I reckon anyone could be convinced that this is, in fact, chicken meat, due to its mild flavour and texture. Although the average dish comes with the bones intact, the meat literally falls off the bone.

Tasted like: chicken

Where: Chanrey Tree - Siem Reap

Friendly advice: eat it while it’s hot

Crocodile burger - Image: Shahen Suriyabandara

Crocodile burger

Image: Shahen Suriyabandara

Crocodile Burger

Although croc meat has a reputation for being chewy with a mild, fishy taste, the ground meat transformed into a burger patty had a sort of smoked apple aroma, with a more chicken-like flavour. It may not have been in pure meat form but I’m most certainly adding this to the list as it was a real highlight. Definitely a must-try for the adventurous.

Tasted like: chicken

Where: Sala Bai Hotel School - Siem Reap

Friendly advice: enjoy it! This doesn’t bite

Barbecued rat - Image: Karen Whale

Barbecued rat

Image: Karen Whale

Barbecued Rat

Yes, you read that correctly. Next on the menu was rat. Although this may not be for most (it certainly didn’t appeal to anyone else in my group) once you get past the idea of it being rat, it isn’t as bad as it sounds. These aren’t your average rats scavenging around the London underground. Nor are these the street rats of Cambodia. These are free-range, free from artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, rats, found in the rice fields of Cambodia’s villages. Barbecued on an open charcoal grill, these Cambodian delights taste just like barbecued chicken.

Tasted like: barbecued chicken

Where: Battambang

Friendly advice: stay away from the smoke of the barbecue grill

Rice wine - Image: Karen Whale

Rice wine

Image: Karen Whale

Cobra Venom Rice Wine

Honestly, if I wasn’t told about the poison of the cobra, or if I hadn’t seen the snake in the glass jar, this would have been another delicious rice wine. Although, I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I mean how can you not enjoy a nice glass of rice wine? As this experience was part of our tour, we got to actually see the rice wine-making process, making the tasting session even more rewarding (and flavoursome!).  

Tasted like: Sake Rice Wine

Where: Battambang

Friendly advice: Cheers!

Snake

Snake

Snake

Although I would totally have been up for trying this one, our tour leader advised we go for a big snake if we wanted to taste snake meat, so that we were less likely to choke on any bones! Snakes have a lot of bones, which enables them to manoeuvre in the slithery way they do. Although snake meat is abundant across Cambodia, we never did find our big snake. I guess that will have to be an experience for another trip…

As much as I would love to say that everything I consumed, as highlighted in this blog, is all about the experience over flavour, I can’t. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy most of this. And even the ones I didn’t like still make for a great conversation piece. So, if you’re off to Cambodia soon, why not give it a go?

Written by Shahen Suriyabandara

 

I have found a new love in the form of watching sunsets in the most breathtaking destinations. Whilst Bali is currently right up there for me, I am on the constant lookout for even more beautiful sunsets whilst I nourish my life experiences with traveling the globe.

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