Once of the things on every traveller’s list when they reach Cambodia is to try one of these weird delicacies. If you look closely at Khmer history, you’ll realise that this strange diet is a result of the Pol Pot regime, when food shortage and nationwide starvation forced locals to turn to other means of food for survival. Today, many of these have become a part of their culture.
Are you a daredevil backpacker who would seek out these dishes? How many of these have you (or will you) try?
1. Fried Tarantula
Fried tarantula is a regional specialty that is mixed with salt, sugar and seasoning powder then deep-fried. Known as “a-ping”, these tarantulas are usually the size of a human palm and are said to enhance the eater’s beauty.
The town of Skuon is a breeding ground for spiders and can be found in abundance during the rainy seasons beginning in June. Vendors can sell 100 of these creepy crawlies a day! Some say fried tarantula taste like chicken, while others describe it closer to soft-shell crab.
Related article: 10 Ways to Experience Food in Asia
2. Pong Tia Koun
Boiled duck foetus goes by many names in Southeast Asia. Filipinos call it balut, Thais call it khai khao, and Cambodians call it pong tia koun. Normally served with beer, pong tia koun is a fertilized bird egg which has been incubated for about 10 to 20 days, which is then boiled or steamed. The right way to eat it is to crack the egg on one end and suck it straight from the shell. Not for the fainthearted!
3. Fried Insects
In certain parts of Cambodia, street vendors sell fried insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, beetles and silkworms. High in protein and said to help lower cholesterol, these crunchy “popcorns” make an unusual snack when you are in the country. In Siem Reap, there is even a Bugs Café with an extensive six-legged menu.
4. Snakes on Sticks
One of the street food you can find down the night market at Siem Reap is snakes on sticks. Chewy in texture and with an acquired taste, these small snakes are marinated in sauce, and barbecued on skewers, satay-style.
Frogs are no stranger in Southeast Asia. In Cambodia, their bellies are stuffed with ingredients like pork or frog spawn, then grilled whole before serving. It is said to taste like chicken, so keep an open mind!