By the time I got to Cambodia, after having visiting much of Southeast Asia, I found there really wasn’t many Fear Factor Foods (mylist of posts here) I haven’t seen.
‘Same Same‘… but not too different.
Still, it excites me to explore cultural differences, even if it makes me squirm a bit.
Here’s a few interesting foods as well as, a couple of players I haven’t yet seen…
Khmer Food’s Prize Players
1. Eating Deep Fried Tarantula
It takes a bit to understand Khmer folk.Around 1975-1979, during the the Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodia underwent a food shortage. A-ping (or fried tarantula) are one of the Khmer foods, which evolved as a result of sheer survival. Today, a-ping is a popular snack with the Khmer and according to locals eating a-ping is said to increase one’s beauty. Dealers buy the tarantulas from hunters at about 12 cents a piece and sell them for 25 cents.
According to Travel Channel‘s Andrew Zimmern, the taste is said to be like soft-shell crab. I’ll have to take his word for it.
Below is an interesting segment from Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods where he follows the entire process a-ping, from the hunting to the cooking and selling.
2. Skinned frog
What always impresses me about Southeast Asian delicacies are the quantities in which hunters hunt and gather their frogs and insects. Fried frogs are a common snack, but what would you do with a tub of skinned frogs? Here’s a short snip of Gordon Ramsey‘s episodes on frog hunting and making stuffed frog. Click here to see a video of how Chef Gordon Ramsey shows us how to hunt and cook Khmer stuffed frogs.
3. Snacking on Boiled duck fetus
A popular high protein delicacy snack in Southeast Asia is boiled duck fetus. In Cambodia it’s called pong tea khon, in Laos it’s kai luk, in the Phillipines it’s balut and in Thailand it’s called khai khao .
To eat, it you crack the shell, suck the juice from the top and then dine on the chick fetus inside. Typically, the fetus can be anywhere from 10-17 days of development. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy an egg to see what stage of development the fetus were in, but apparently (and according to this YouTube video here), they can get pretty …developed.
The Southeast Asian all-Star Fear Factor foods
4. Deep fried Bug Snacks
The saying is that there’s a lot of protein in bugs. I don’t know where scientists measured this, but I’ll have to take their word for it.
The deep-fried bug variety in Southeast Asia (see my Laos post) holds an assorted buffet: crickets, bamboo worms, roaches, the list goes on…
There are two things insect snacks may inspire for you:
1. You’ll admire the Southeast Asian ability to catch insects in such large quantities.
2. It’ll make you look at a can of Raid differently.
5. Tongue, snouts and innards
The presentation takes on a slight air of gritty humor. You have to give it up to Southeast Asian culture– at least no part goes to waste!
How does snout and tongue taste? It must be tasty enough to get through the visual turn-off. According to adventurous gastronomic bloggers, there are many tasty recipe tidbits you can make with a trail of tongue (here), pig snout (here) and a trail of innards (here).
How adventurous would you be?
6. Shocking mystery meat presentations
You’ve gotta love local markets and the no-nonsense way they go about presenting them.
When you’re a tourist, local markets can be an entertaining playground of crime scene investigations. The only way to know what meats or foods are being sold is to play detective by recognizing the clues or parts. Initially, animal hooves and chicken feet startled me (apparently, hooves are a unique delicacy and soup favorite around the world, while deep-fried chicken feet offer a finger-lickin’ crunch). Then they became old hat. Thankfully, the variety of solvable and unsolvable crimes never end…
How long does it take you to guess the animal this belongs to?