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Heroic Adventures Vlogger CJMoore brings you deep into culture, food, adventure and travel.

Tarantula Eating

CAMBODIA | Sunday, 11 March 2012 | Views [1606] | Scholarship Entry

Bugging for a Snack

Deep-fried tarantulas and thumb-sized fried black water bugs are stacked neatly on opposite sides of a large pizza tray. Guarding the creature-laden platter, a Khmer woman squats and beckons passers-by. Lured by curiosity, I jostle through massed shoppers and gazing banana hawkers toward the woman. She peddles bugs alongside a heavily trafficked passageway of Phnom Penh’s Psar Thmei (New Market) in Cambodia. Pointing and pantomiming, I discover the insects on display are food.

Caught in the tarantula trader’s web of, to me, exotic nosh, there is no time to be repulsed. Taste is culturally determined and, in a moment like this, queasiness can insult. Bound by my own prying, I purchase a tarantula treat to slake curiosity and connect personally with the more striking side of the Khmer palate.

Biting into the spider’s abdomen, unexpected distinctions emerge. Tarantula does not taste like chicken; nor is it crunchy. It is not hairy because its hairs are burnt-off during the cooking process. It tastes faintly like crab. But, in the final analysis, tarantula tastes mostly like tarantula, delicious.

Khmers believe that eating tarantula increases virility in men. And for Khmer women, tarantula is believed to enhance beauty. I don’t know how it affected my virility—but I did feel a tinge more macho after the snack.

Tarantula initiated me into the world of edible insects.

Once you look beyond the novelty of insect cuisine, a firsthand understanding of the foods significance to the culture can transport you to the threshold of new insights. Willingly eating bugs will challenge the way you look at food, at bugs, and at your host culture. You will begin to question the food values you took for granted as a child. When you return home and yearn for a snack of fried tarantula because it tastes good, you will know that you have stretched the horizons of your personal culinary landscape and are a changed person. Bon Appétit.

Tags: bug, cambodia, phnom penh, psar thmei, tarantula

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