Last updated on September 20th, 2017
Insect are not Part of the Traditional Khmer Diet
Hi Thea, fancy some fried Tarantula? You must be jesting my Dear Noeun. Thea and Noeun, here, your Cambodian bloggers.
Despite widespread backpackers and travel forums’ beliefs, we don’t traditionally eat maggots, spiders and cockroaches. But it does make for a good story when you go back home to tell people that Cambodians eat spiders. You can even show them pictures as proof.
We don’t eat dogs either (some of our neighbours do). Sure, you will see all manners of cooked, boiled, and fried critters at bus stops where tourists congregate. With enough, glutamate, sugar, salt and chili, near anything is edible. And maggots will cost you less than imported chocolates and sweets.
Would you like lobster, fresh river fish or insects?
Given the choice, nobody in Cambodia is going to eat worms, when they can have fresh river lobster… Doing the dark days of the Rouge, people ate whatever they could lay their hands on, and that’s probably where this critter eating business started.
Once, I went to a Khmer New Year office party with Thea . The office administrator had the uncanny idea of ordering fire ant soup from a caterer. We expected roast duck, fried prawns and steamed fish. What an uncouth and cheap host he was (he probably pocketed a handsome chunk of the party’s budget).
Cambodians are fish eaters. Preferably freshwater fishes, though seafood is good too. Then we’ll eat chicken, then beef, then pork. Insects are generally a last resort if you can afford other sources of protein.
A Taste for Crickets
Now, crickets, that’s a different story.
Crickets (“cheugnreut”) are sought after, even in urban areas. More of an old folks acquired taste than a millennial trend. My grandfather is the only person I know who likes fried crickets (as appetizers since pistachios are now too hard for his gums). Most of my friends don’t mind a few crickets but you won’t make much of an impression by ordering crickets on a first date.
If you drive in the Cambodian countryside, you’ll see areas where farmers use large sheets of plastic and neon lights to catch crickets. Crickets are expensive and you need to know when they are in season for a more refined buttery taste.
Having a trustworthy supply chain (cricket catcher, wholesaler, cook) is essential if you are to eat crickets on a regular basis.
Try a cricket and see if you can stomach it! However, give the other critters a pass.