Cambodian deep-fried insect snacks


If you are searching for something more than potato chips, peanuts and pretzels; satisfy your epicuriosity at a Cambodian market or drive to Skoun for some unique fried snacks. The array of delicious morsels this country has to offer are not preserved in strange numbers, packed with nutritional information or shelved.

Try some six-legged snacks, or a few winged-snacks. How about a kilo of jumping snacks? Cambodia is teeming with fried crickets, deep-fried a-ping (tarantulas which some believe stop breathlessness), fried kantes-long (a black beetle), deep-fried kantea-touk (a menthol tasting beetle) fried mea phleang (winged termites), fried pupas, dried clams, lie (freshwater clams), kchorng and kchav (types of snails). How do they taste? And why on earth do Cambodian people like to eat them?
For Cambodians, who know their flavors well, they are mouth-watering. For foreigners, and judging by the grimaces, it is a whole different story.

Sok Tiek Savy is a deep-fried insect vendor at Phnom Penh’s Central Market and she says foreigners don’t

buy these sorts of delicacies, but they do watch her selling them and rather than sample, take photographs. Sok says she makes up to 100,000 riel ($15-$25) a day.

Plunging a brown, shiny kantea-touk into spitting cooking oil Sok turns and says, “I have my suppliers who bring kantea-touk, kantes-long, crickets, a-ping and pupas from various provinces according to the seasons.” During the dry season vendors sell dried clams tossed in salt and most people buy them to marinate with ripe tamarind and dip in fish sauce.

Some of the insects are transported alive while others are cooked so they won’t spoil on the journey to the city. When they arrive, Sok re-cooks them with her special spices and oils. In Phnom Penh there are three wholesalers who buy insects in large quantities from the provinces for export overseas, particularly to Thailand.

A young girl selecting kantea-touk says every time she comes to the Central Market and it is cricket season, she will buy fried crickets, if it is a-ping season, she will buy deep-fried a-ping and if it is kantes-long season, she will buy fried kantes-long.
“They are not at all disgusting. In fact, they taste very nice. If you don’t believe me, close your eyes and try, and then you will know how these things taste,” she says.

Sam At is a vendor at Hun Sen Park in the capital and she says that every weekend during the evenings she sells about 7kg of snails. She sells by the plate; one plate weighs half a kilogram and costs 2,000 riel (50 cents). While down the road north of the Japanese Friendship Bridge, Bun Chantha sells 50kg of frogs a day to huge crowds of salivating students. “Ninety percent of my customers are pupils from the local schools,” Bun says. Deep-fried frogs, or kon sngoen, are also very popular amongst Cambodian men who like to chew the legs with a glass of sour palm wine.

North of Phnom Penh, stop anywhere in the town of Skoun and savor a bag of their famed arachnids. The locals have long used tarantulas not only in traditional medicine, they are thought to be good for the heart, throat and lungs but as a source of food. According to some enthusiasts, the anatomy tastes a little like crab meat. It’s the taste of the abdomen that’s sounds worrying. Eating has never been such an adventure!