When I moved to Cambodia two years ago one of the first snacks I was introduced to was like something out of my worst nightmares. I was once on my way to a field trip with work and when we stopped for a break a lady with a basket full of fried tarantulas on her head started making her way towards me. At first I wasn’t sure what she was carrying, but when she got closer I nearly freaked out. When she asked me if I wanted some tarantulas for breakfast I nearly passed out. I usually eat everything from grubs in the Amazon to guinea pig in Ecuador, but eating tarantula in Cambodia was not going to happen as I am petrified of spiders. The bigger and hairier they are, the worse my fear becomes. It is completely irrational, I know, but even just touching a dead tarantula scares the hell out of me.
So when I met the lovely Dalene and Pete from Hecktic Travels a few weeks ago in Phnom Penh and Pete asked me if there was any unusual food in Cambodia, I told him about the fried tarantulas. He looked skeptical and intrigued in equal measure and I don’t know what I was thinking when I suggested that if he ate a tarantula I would do the same but that’s exactly what I said. I blame the beer and as soon as I said it I regretted it. But as I am a woman of my word we met a week later at Romdeng restaurant in Phnom Penh, which is the only place in Phnom Penh where you can get this ‘delicacy’.
Romdeng restaurant is also a social enterprise which trains street children so I tried to convince myself that I was eating spiders for a good cause. I was a bit nervous to be completely honest and when the waiter bought a plate of three fried tarantulas over I may have squealed a little. I had never been so close to tarantulas in my life before and now they were right in front of me. They were quite big and to my horror I discovered that they still had hairs on their body too.
Of course Pete had no problem eating the damn thing at all. He pulled a leg out, put it in his mouth and swallowed it without even flinching. So then it was my turn. I needed to do this in baby steps though, so I tried to touch the spider with my fingertip first. There may have been a bit of squealing again when I touched it. So the next step was to hold it but I was ever so slightly freaking out at that stage, so Pete suggested to hold a leg first. When he passed it to me and I grabbed it, fear overcame me so I screamed like a little girl and dropped it. You can see the hilarious video that Dalene took of the incident here.
So after the initial shock and a huge sip of beer I gave it another try. I grabbed the leg again, determined to not drop it and actually eat it. I dunked it in the pepper and lime sauce that came with it for ages but then I thought to myself that I was being really silly and locals eat tarantula in Cambodia all the time, so I pulled myself together and ate a leg, closely followed by a massive gulp of beer. To my huge surprise it wasn’t actually that bad. It tasted a bit like burned chicken (surprise, surprise!).
I ate four legs in total and after a while I even managed to hold the whole spider. This is by far the weirdest and scariest food I have ever eaten, but my work colleagues said to me now that I have eaten a tarantula I am finally a real Khmer…
So now I want to know from you guys and gals, would you eat a tarantula? What is the weirdest food that you have ever eaten?