Discovering the Delicacies of Insects in Phnom Penh

During my travels through Cambodia, I’ve had the chance to try some truly unique and adventurous foods. One of the most memorable experiences was eating insects in Phnom Penh. Every day around 5 pm, at the Royal Palace next to the front park, a bustling market comes alive with vendors selling an array of fried insects. This culinary adventure is not for the faint of heart, but it’s an experience worth having if you can overcome the mental hurdle.

The Market at the Royal Palace

As the sun sets over Phnom Penh, the area behind the Royal Palace transforms into a hub of activity. Street vendors set up their stalls, displaying trays filled with various insects. The array of colors and shapes is both fascinating and a bit intimidating. Among the offerings, you can find silk worms, water bugs, cockroaches, and crickets, each with its own unique flavor and texture.

Tarantulas: A Cambodian Delicacy

Cambodia is the only country in the world where eating tarantulas is considered a delicacy. These large, hairy spiders are sold for $1 each and are typically deep-fried until crispy. The first time I tried one, I was struck by the flavor, which was a bit dry and reminiscent of fried liver. It’s definitely an acquired taste, but the experience of eating such an unusual food is something I’ll never forget.

Silk Worms and Other Insect Delights

Silk worms are another popular snack in Cambodia. They are often fried and seasoned, creating a soft, savory treat. Insects like water bugs, cockroaches, and crickets are also commonly found at the market. These insects are usually sold for about $2 per small bag, enough to fill two hands. Each type of insect has a distinct flavor and texture, making for a diverse tasting experience.

A Memorable Experience in Prey Veng

One of my most unforgettable experiences with insect cuisine happened in a village in Prey Veng. While exploring the area, I found a beetle and decided to try roasting it with a local villager. We shared the beetle, each eating half. It was a unique experience, and the roasted beetle had a surprisingly nutty flavor. This moment highlighted the resourcefulness and adaptability of Cambodian cuisine, where insects are not just novelty snacks but an important part of the diet.

Why You Should Try It

Eating insects is more common in Cambodia than many might expect, and it's an essential part of the local diet for its nutritional value and availability. For many travelers, the biggest challenge is overcoming the mental barrier associated with eating insects. However, when you think about it, eating crispy fried crickets is not so different from eating shrimp with their shells on. Both have a crunchy texture and are often enjoyed for their unique flavors.

Once you get past the initial hesitation, you'll discover a world of flavors and textures. Trying insects in Phnom Penh is not just about the taste—it's about embracing a new culture and stepping out of your comfort zone. It's a conversation starter and a way to connect with the local community.

So, the next time you find yourself in Phnom Penh at dusk, head to the market behind the Royal Palace and take a culinary leap into the world of insect cuisine. You might just find yourself munching on a handful of crickets, making memories that will last a lifetime.

Emil Moe

Software- and Data Engineer

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