December 5, 2019 – Written By Leanna Payne, Lost Plate Food Tour Guide
A fair amount of visitors take advantage of one of Siem Reap’s many unique offerings: bugs. Well, bugs for eating.
But it’s not just a tourist trap, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that two billion people, more than a quarter of the world’s population, eat bugs as part of their standard diet. From Kenyan termites drummed out our their mounds, Peruvian Amazon weevil grubs plucked from rotting palm trees, or Cambodian weaver ant larvae used to add bitterness too soups and sauces.
Most Westerners aren’t accustomed to the idea of eating insects as a source of cheap nutrition, but let’s just go ahead and break that bubble – you already do. As much as a kilogram a year of insects are consumed unintentionally by Americans – stray fragments and all sorts end up on your plate. And if that isn’t enough to convince you that it’s totally fine to try, we’ll have you know that shrimp/prawns are the closely related cousin of cockroaches, and are literally the cockroaches of the seas. You’ve already taken that first step!
That being said, many of the bugs for sale visibly in Siem Reap are made for tourists looking to snap an Instagram post and pose as if they were about to eat it, then the food is discarded. Knowing this, local vendors don’t care about how it tastes – because their customers certainly don’t. Going to places like these will give you an entirely incorrect understanding of eating bugs in Cambodia.
If you want to eat bugs in Siem Reap, you gotta get gritty or get posh. Bugs at local markets like Psa Leu are guaranteed authentic, we also like the Road 60 Night Market (this pop-up market is up to 1km long on Street 60, past Apsara Road, when leaving town) for that full-range of deep fried insects to pair with some 50-cent beers.
Eating bugs in Cambodia is typically a snack food, and very much a drinking food, so try it as the locals do! Chances are your tuk-tuk driver has a favourite vendor for his nights off, so ask around and avoid anything within a 4-block radius of Pub Street.
If you’re not into the hunt, Bugs Cafe in the centre of town does a fantastic job of making the unknown familiar. Unlike other Western approaches that have tried to cancel out the heebie jeebies by pulverising bugs in to tasteless powders, Bugs Cafe puts a spotlight on gourmet insect cuisine. Chef Seiha Soun, of the prestigious 5-star Sofitel Hotels, pioneers insect gastronomy to address issues of hunger, climate change, and the ecological impact of farming.
Ant-stuffed spring rolls, Bug Macs, Tarantula Tempura, and gorgeous tasting menus make for an unforgettable experience that is sure to transform your perception of a food source celebrated in many corners of the world. The trick is to close your eyes for the first bite. Hell, you might even order seconds like us!
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