Road Trip Cambodia: Itsy Bitsy Spiders?
This is the post many of you have been eagerly anticipating. I mentioned in a previous post that deep-fried tarantulas are sold as a roadside snack in Cambodia, but I was not about to try those in particular after seeing the layers of dirt that coated them after vehicles went flying by. In Phnom Penh, I was able to find them on the menu at Romdeng, a reputable restaurant that I wrote about before, which serves fried tarantulas in a more sterile environment.
We didn’t see fried tarantula being sold everywhere in the country. Our guide in Siem Reap told us that they are the local delicacy of Skuon, a town about 45 miles outside of Phnom Penh near where he grew up. They appear to be abundantly available there in the local forests, although people also breed them. While no one really knows how fried tarantulas became a food source in Skuon, many believe that the starvation faced by millions of Cambodians during the dark era of Khmer Rouge rule has something to do with it.
So what do deep-fried tarantulas taste like? I found them rather tasty and would definitely eat them again. The chefs at Romdeng cover their version with a savory/sweet coating, almost like a watered-down barbecue sauce, before frying them to a crisp. The tarantulas were served with a pepper and lime dipping sauce that added heat while enhancing the savory/sweet coating with brightness from the citrus. The tarantulas themselves were very crunchy on the outside, while the inside was somewhat neutral in flavor (akin to chicken) with a nutty aftertaste. I think they would pair nicely with some cold beer while watching football. Spiders don’t scare me, so I had no trouble eating them. As a young child, I was already eating a variety of animals and their various parts long before consuming unique foods or offal became popular with foodies. Edna Krabappel had a little more trouble, but I give her credit for trying a small bit of the leg before giving up. Although Edna is usually an adventurous eater, the look and feel of the giant spiders were just a bit too much for her to fathom ingesting.