Here they were, the most dreaded words for a serious arachnophobiac like myself. Tarantulas for breakfast-really??? What happened to fried eggs or toast with jam?

I didn’t really know what to expect from the Cambodian food before we came here. All I knew was that Cambodians tend to eat everything that crawls – that includes frogs, snails, snakes, bugs, crickets and from the looks of it – even tarantulas. I am usually a person who tries everything. I have eaten grubs in the Amazon, ox tongue in Hungary, snake wine in China and haggis in Scotland. But whilst I appreciated the friendly lady’s kind offer, and as much as I hate to disappoint you guys, I had to politely decline that particular snack. Unfortunately my phobia of spiders was just too big. But never say never – maybe one day I will be brave enough…

grubsAnyone for a snack of crickets, bats, tarantulas or cockroaches?

Or mini snakes for that matter?
So whilst this kind of food is readily available on street markets, I found that there is much more Cambodian food than creepy crawlies. During our two months here we have been sampling many local dishes, so I was keen to learn how to cook some of our favourite dishes. I therefore enrolled on a full-day cooking class at Frizz restaurant in Phnom Penh. The course included a trip to the market where our teacher explained all the different vegetables and herbs (some of which I have never seen before).
Tons of fresh and organic produce
Abattoir at the market – not for the faint-hearted!

Once we bought all the ingredients we were shown how to prepare various dishes. It was great fun and I have mastered the art of cooking the following dishes now:

Vegetable spring rolls
Preparing the filling of carrots, taro root and peanuts
Ready to fry
Crisping up
Et voila!
Banana blossom salad with boiled chicken, herbs and chillies
Fish Amok – coconut fish steamed in banana leaves
The ingredients
Making the herb paste
The banana leaf cup – a piece of art I reckon.
In the steamer
Adding a bit of decoration
And ready to sample my masterpiece
Sweet sticky rice with mango and a caramel sauce
My absolute favourite!

For anybody who feels inspired to try some Khmer dishes now please see below a recipe for the national dish: Fish Amok. The fish can be replaced by tofu or chicken as well. Happy cooking!

Ingredients: (serves 4)
30g young nhor leaves
3 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp kaffir lime leaves
3 chili peppers
500g white fish (i.e. cod)
3/4 cup coconut cream
2 cups coconut milk
1 beaten egg

For the herb paste (Kroeung):
5 dried red chillies (soaked, drained and chopped into a paste)
3 garlic cloves
2 tbsp galangal
1 tbsp lemongrass (thinly sliced)
zest of 1/4 kaffir lime
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp chopped peanuts

For the Kroeung combine all ingredients and smash up in a mortar (or food processor, but this is less fun) and blend into a thick paste.

Then slice the fish thinly and set aside. Remove nhor from stem, slice the kaffir lime leaves and cayenne peppers thinly. Stir the Kroeung into 1 cup of coconut milk. When it has dissolved add the egg, fish sauce and fish. Then add the remaining coconut milk and stir well.

Now it comes to the fun part-making the banana leaf cups. Clean the leaves with a wet cloth, then dip them into boiling water so they are soft and do not crack when being shaped. Cut circles (25cm in diameter) and place two together, on top of each other. Then put a thumb on one right angle of the square and pull in two sides, tucking the fold, and pinning together with a toothpick. Continue until all four sides of the cup are held together. The cup should be about 4cm deep.

Fill the banana leaves with your ingredients and place in a steamer. Steam for 15-20 minutes.

Pour coconut cream on top and add the sliced cayenne peppers and kaffir lime leaves. Serve with rice.


About Tammyonthemove

Tammy & Chris are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between them they are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football. Find out why they stopped pushing pens around the British civil service to travel the world on their blog.

12 Thoughts on “You want tarantulas for breakfast lady?

  1. Anonymous on January 16, 2012 at 8:39 pm said:

    hmmm.yummy 🙂 how are you guys? feels like home already? cheers, katja

  2. We are very well Katja, thanks. 🙂 It is starting to feel like home, yes. We have been here for three months later on this month already. Time goes by so quickly-but we are loving it! Hope all is well with you too?

  3. Hi Guys! I have been following your blog but haven’t had time to add a comment however I just couldn’t resist writing now! Those dishes look amazing! Very glad to hear all is going well in Cambodia. Will write separately to tell you about my post redundancy adventure….all in all I have left the UK too! Looking forward to reading the next tales…:)

    • ‘Ola MdP!

      We very much look forward to hearing about what you’re up to then!…

      I assume you have our contact details. If not Tammy is floating around in the world of Facebook – under something cunning like Tamara Lowe Phnom Penh I’d guess.

      Hasta pronto then mi amiga…….

  4. All this food looks super nice! I can’t really remember being super impressed with Cambodian food but these dishes look yummy!

  5. I didn’t know how nice some of the food was until I did that cooking class either. My favourite is sticky rice with mango though. You can’t beat it!

  6. I wish I had taken a cooking class in Cambodia, I didn’t spend enough time there but it would have been fascinating.

  7. I really recommend it. Gives you a good reason to come back now. 🙂

  8. I also did a cambodian cooking class on a visit there, and it was really a highlight of my trip. Those egg rolls are delish!

  9. Agree Mary, a cooking class is soo much fun! Highly recommend it!

  10. Glad to be prepared! I’m headed to Cambodia soon. That cooking course looks amazing though!

    • Tammyonthemove on February 18, 2015 at 12:45 pm said:

      Enjoy Cambodia and the tarantulas. You will love it-maybe the tarantulas not so much. 🙂 The cooking course is great. I have done it twice actually.

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