Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Skuon, Cambodia... spider town...

Yours truly snacking in Skuon, Cambodia
   During the 1970's and the height of the craziness generated by the Khmer Rouge the middle class, the literate, the technically skilled and those who could anyway be be construed as reactionary, i.e.,  non-rural peasant had to lay low. Pol Pot declared "Year Zero" and the beginning of a new society; the Khmer Rouge forced the evacuation of Phenom Penh, and then smaller towns and villages. This was done to hasten restructuring and a return to a collective, rural, agrarian society.
 At the same time, due to a synergy of the regime's intense focus on self-sufficiency, social engineering and unorthodox, ideologically driven farming methods widespread famine broke out. There weren't too many dining options at this point. As necessity is the mother invention and adaptability is one the key human traits for survival, people began to discover alternate food sources. One animal protein source which seems to do well in the hot, humid and densely foliated landscapes of Cambodia is, guess what? Yes, you guessed right, the tarantula. Hungry people discovered that frying the rather meaty looking arachnids rendered the venom inert and the chunky critters edible. They were so tasty in fact, that the custom of eating spiders remained long after life began to take on some semblance of sanity.
  The head and legs are eaten first, followed by the meaty abdomen, although some claim this is the best part. I'd have to agree, despite the initially off-putting appearance, they are yumbolicious, much like a soft shell crab. Which, incidentally, is a close relative, so it makes sense that they would have a similar flavor. So once over the initially disconcerted feeling it gave me, I bit in and enjoyed the crispy, fried sort of nutty tasting goodness which reminded me of eating soft shells in Louisiana... surprisingly, not bad at all!
Spider vendor... I could hardly contain my excitement as the bus rolled into Skuon as I had read about the custom of eating spiders and eagerly awaited to taste the unusual delicacy.
The head and legs are usually eaten first. Many passing on the meatier abdomen, although locals enjoy this part the most.

Frying renders the venom inert.