Before we went to Cambodia I had a goal...I wanted to eat a bug. Ideally a spider, but realistically just anything that squirmed. According to Food and Agriculture Organization, about 2 billion people eat insects on a regular basis so it should be no big deal, right? I had seen a video on Travel Insider about a place in Siem Reap called Bugs Cafe. I watched the video and decided I was going to go there. I thought a nice restaurant was better than the street for my first bug eating experience. Besides, who wants to eat street snake or street spider? Blah!
The Bugs Cafe is a gastronomical discovery and experience! The cafe sources it's spiders from local hunters and rice farmers. The chef washes the tarantulas, removes the poisonous parts and cooks them in five different ways. They serve over 150 tarantulas per week. But spiders aren't the only thing on the menu; they also have ants, crickets, grasshoppers, scorpions, bees and much more.
After thoughtfully looking through the options I told our server I was unable to eat the marinated or donut spider because it looked too much like a spider. I don't think I could even pick up the marinated, hairy, completely real looking spider, let alone put it anywhere near my face! She suggest getting the tarantula samosa instead. The samosa is a breaded, triangle-shaped samosa filled with feta cheese, garlic, parsley, eggs, spinach and a marinated spider. Since it didn't look like a spider I thought I would try it, plus it still counts as eating a tarantula.
Because I couldn't pick just one item on the menu, I ordered a Small Discovery Platter. This platter included two fire ant spring rolls, a tarantula samosa, an insect skewer (grasshoppers, a giant water bug and a scorpion), and a Silk Worm and Cricket Wok.
Max ate only two bites of an ant spring roll and I devoured the rest of the platter. The biggest question I have been asked is "what did the bugs taste like?" All I can say is that it doesn't taste like anything I can compare it to. It's a category all it's own. The hardest part of this experience was getting over the mental factor. The Silk Worm and Cricket Wok was my favorite dish on my platter, but it was still a mental challenge, each and every bite, to put the crickets into my mouth. As I put each fork-full of bugs into my mouth I held my breath until I heard the inevitable "crunch".
I saved the scorpion for last because that was the real challenge. Scorpions are #2 on my "things that freak me out" list (tarantulas being #1), so I had to hype myself up to eat it. At first I held it. "Okay, I can hold it." I danced him around my plate. Then, I stabbed it. "Okay, it is for sure dead." I definitely didn't want something magical to happen and this thing sudden become alive in my mouth. I sat there with the scorpion on my otherwise clean plate for what seemed to be forever, sitting eye to eye with my little arachnid dessert. Suddenly I was ready! I put the scorpion between two pepper slices, which the chef suggested to do since the scorpion meat is very bitter. Then, I put the scorpion and pepper sandwich, tail first, into my mouth. Of course, it was too big and half of the scorpion was dangling out while I crunched away at the exoskeleton. To compare the texture of the exoskeleton to something more familiar, it's like popping a shrimp in your mouth with the tail still on. The worst part of the scorpion was picking pieces of his plasticy "shell" out of my mouth. Other than that, it was good!
If you made it to the end of this without making the "barf" emoji face, I applaud you! Now go out and eat something that squirms!