After bumping around like jumping beans over unpaved roads for the past 4 hours, the bus finally stopped. Starving, I jumped out and walked towards the rest stop food court. As I side stepped a large metal bowel, something inside it caught my eye. Then I saw them. My legs immediately leapt backwards. There, inside, were at least 30 live Tarantulas!
My mouth agape, I looked towards the shop keeper on my right. She smiled and then pointed to her hundred strong army of fried tarantulas piled on the table.
“You want?” I was speechless.
I carefully made my way around the bowl of confined spiders and over to her food stall to get a closer look. She didn’t just have Tarantulas. She also had fried baby birds, crickets, grasshoppers, cockroaches, beetles, and a couple other bugs I had never seen.
I continued to stare at the immense insect smorgasbord before me when all of a sudden some guy tore into a Tarantula and offered me the other half.
“Hahhhhahhahaha, hah, haha, haaaah…..Really? You want me to eat this? Do you really eat this?”
“Yea I do. It’s very good. We are in a province famous for its fried spiders,” he proclaimed with pride.
“Ok, you go first then,” I taunted, hoping that he wouldn’t actually go through with it. But sure enough he put it to his teeth and chomped that fried arachnid like a Korean digs into doggy soup.
So began the insect smorgasbord.
Step One: Introduce Yourself To The Spider
“Hey spider, I’m going to eat you,” I muttered quietly. Somehow saying this helped me commit. First I ripped off the leg, put it to my teeth, and gave it a little nibble. My tongue slowly pressed up against the limb. To my surprise it was sweet and spicy.
Step Two: Play For Keeps
So I decided to tuck into it. Crunch, crack, the insides oozed out over my tongue. My mouth filled with the taste of iron, dirt and crunchy turd. I chewed faster and faster until I swallowed that big bug like I was about to win 50,000 dollars on Fear Factor.
Step Three: Wash That Bug Down
I ran over to the drink cooler, pulled out a coke and downed it. But still the taste lingered. I plucked out an iced green tea and sipped ferociously. Again, the taste remained. It wasn’t until later that night that I was able to wash this deep and twangy taste from my mouth.
So why did I do it?
This was my chance to delve into Cambodian culture and push my palate, and I couldn’t say no. It was an experience, and I think that’s what travel and life is all about.
Even if it’s a fried up giant spider that’s been sitting out in the sun for way too long, sometimes you just gotta say yes and take a bite. Would I do it again? Probably not. The cockroach was tastier than that spider but not tasty enough that I’ll be paying 35 cents to put it on my hamburger any day soon.