Often considered “of whose popularity is eclipsed by the national pride of its neighboring countries”, bug-eating phenomenon is not something uncommon for most Cambodians who passed the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime with great animation in the mid-1970s. In today’s Cambodia, such incredible way of eating within its culture has asserted its stance and become a part of “must-try unique street delicacies” for the local’s stomach and that of the foreign visitor’s.
Considered being a cheap and plentiful source of protein, amino acids and other micronutrients, today’s bugs – beetles, wild crickets, worms of eatable kinds and river shrimps – that are often seen being fried and sold in the markets and other tourist attractions across the country, have become the most popular street foods that many local and foreign tourists alike find impossible to resist.
From catching to being scooped up and put on a large plate ready to serve customers, a seller from whose large stainless steel plate I had bought a cup of fried crickets, explained that the process of making these delicious ready-to-serve bugs is not as arduous as the people may think.
To catch the beetles and wild crickets, often times people use a blue fluorescent light that shines through a sheet of plastic hung from a bamboo frame at night. The insects fly towards the light, hit the plastic and drop into a tub of water below. Ice is then poured over the bounty, finishing off any insects that are still, alive while keeping them fresh.
They then produce small plastic sacks of seasoning of flour, salt and sugar. After that, they pour the seasoning mix to the bowls of the bugs. People then place the wok half-full of glistening vegetable oil, on the heat. Bowls of crickets – from giant wild to smaller farmed – are laid out until the bounty exhausts. After four or five minutes, they scoop some up using a wire skimmer and toss them onto the plate ready to serve. Often the bugs are crispy enough to bounce and skim around the metal wire.
Cambodian street food is diverse and gives people from all walks of life a unique perspective into the country’s food culture and delicacies.
Would you wish to try some if you had ever have to visit Cambodia?
By Sivutha Tan, ASEAN Correspondent from Cambodia