Cambodia, land of Angkor Wat, one of the most amazing temples ever discovered, site of the Killing Fields, one of the saddest places you’ll ever visit and home to Kampong Pluk, the fascinating floating village. However, incredible as all of those things were, none of them was the thing I was most looking forward to on my trip – that was the chance to eat Cambodian deep-fried spiders.
Now, there’s a strange thing about this – I’m horribly squeamish about ‘normal’ food.
I cannot eat an egg that has any kind of uncooked white on it, I cannot eat off a chicken bone and I can’t let a lolly stick touch my tongue – yet, give me the chance to munch on a deep-fried insect and I’m in my element.
In China, I spent ages deliberating over insects on sticks in the market before choosing mini scorpions – crunchy and bit like popcorn and silkworms – completely disgusting. I was just heading for a grasshopper when The Boyfriend dragged me away.
So, fast forward a few trips to a a trip to Phnom Penh and a night of eating spiders.
Actually, there’s a long history of eating spiders in Cambodia. It stretches back to the days of the Khmer Rouge when food was so scarce, the locals basically, had to eat anything they could find.
The land around the town of Skuon (aka Skun) was home to hundreds of tarantulas who live in holes underground, and so the residents started eating them and found out that actually, they were pretty good.
In time, tarantula sellers started bringing the spiders 55 miles north to Phnom Penh and the tradition spread.
Now, the spiders are caught, or even bred, especially for munching in Skuon.
The tarantula treats are most commonly served deep-fried but if you don’t fancy deep-fried tarantula, though you can get them in soy sauce or even fermented into wine.
Apparently, if you eat enough of them they cure back pain and asthma.
Why I Picked Romdeng
Because we weren’t going to Skuon – where they’re served from big bowls of spidery excitement on the side of the road, I had decided that my venue of choice to eat them would be a restaurant in Phnom Penh called Romdeng.
Not only did going there mean I got to indulge my insect nomming joy, but Romdeng is also a restaurant that helps train ex-street children to work in the hospitality industry and so I would be doing something good for humankind (if not the arachnids) while I ate.
It’s also incredibly pretty and they had normal food for The Boyfriend to eat as he had an upset stomach!
Not being able to share with him did mean I had to refrain from ordering the Red Ant stir fry as well which I’m still sulking about. They’ve also now added a starter with crickets to the Romdeng menu if you really want to embrace insect eating.
The Deep Fried Spiders Arrive
I was fair squealing with excitement when I placed the order but this rapidly turned to a slight daunted sensation when the plate arrived and I realised there was three of them on the plate – including one very large one, but I snapped off a leg, dipped it in the accompanying lime dip and crunched.
It was actually really good…..a bit like bacon flavoured crisps.
I managed to do at least six legs before turning my attention to the body. This wasn’t so good – like the silkworms I’d had in China, it was a crispy case containing something with the consistency of praline chocolate that tasted a bit like bland pate.
Even with the yummy dip, I gave the body’s a miss – but all 24 legs went down a treat.
How Much Does it Cost To Eat Spiders at Romdeng?
The dish costs $5.75 – and is subject to availability.
As you’re unlikely to just go there for a starter, the prices of the main courses range from $6.75 for a Fish Amok (a local Cambodian style curry you definitely have to try) or the most expensive main course is a snapper dish at $8.75. Rice is extra and costs $1.
If you want to eat more insects, expect to pay around $6.75 for the mixed platter containing crickets and the Red Tree Ant, Beef Fillet and Basil Stir Fry is $8.50.
We had a fantastic evening in beautiful surroundings and would absolutely recommend a trip to Romdeng if you are in Phnom Penh.
Where Else Can You Eat Spiders in Cambodia
You can buy edible spiders in many places in Cambodia.
If you’re in Siem Reap, Pub Street will be one of your best bets to find spiders to eat as vendors wander around with stocks ready for tourists. This is my friend Paula’s husband Charlie giving them a try there for their blog Expert Abroad (check out their guide to planning your Cambodia trip here).
You’ll also find spiders served in the market – or, if you’d prefer your bugs more gourmet check out Bugs Cafe in Siem Reap (it’s near the Park Hyatt – there’s a map here). They offer Spider Skewers and Tarantula Donuts – basically deep fried spiders in batter – alongside heaps of other insect-based meals and snacks.
If you’re lucky enough to be travelling via Skuon (which you might as it’s on the route between Phnom Pehn and Siem Reap) you’ll also find tarantula snacks by the side of the road.
The town takes its nickname of Spider Town quite seriously and you’ll find all manner of spider stuff – from giant statues to street vendors wandering around with live tarantulas for tourists to play with (for a small fee).
And then, in the market, you’ll find an array of women sitting on tiny chairs with bowls full of deep-fried spider snacks – and a few other interesting additions to the menu like crickets and barbecued rat!
And if you’re reading all of this with a small look of horror on your face let me just leave you with one final thought.
It’s said that every one of us eats at least four spiders in our sleep over a lifetime.; while a serving of frozen broccoli is allowed to have up to 60 hitchhiking aphids per 100gm. Mine were just a little bit more obvious.
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