In the streets of Cambodia, you can see peddlers selling fried insects: tarantulas, crickets, beetles, silkworms and crickets in Cambodia’s public market. It is a popular snack among the locals— and a more exotic treat worthy of bragging rights for daring tourists like me.
Fried Insects in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Insects and spiders became part of the Khmer diet during the terror years of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot’s reign. Quick history lesson: the Pol Pot regime saw one of the worst human genocide in the history of mankind. An estimated 2 to 3 million civilians died due to mass killings committed by the Khmer Rouge. The others who did survive the executions, died because of starvation and disease.
During the civil war, the insects provide the necessary protein and energy otherwise absent in their forced ration of 6 teaspoons of rice porridge a day. Imagine that… For people to survive a day of imposed force labor? And under the sweltering heat with only 6 teaspoons!
To quote one survivor, ‘Food was more important than God’ during those hard times. They would eat anything they could get their hands on; like insects and even human flesh from the deceased!
What is most odd about this civil war is that it’s not done by an external force. Say, Nazis against Jews like the Holocaust, or white people against black slaves, or aliens against humans. The civil war was Cambodians killing fellow Cambodians.
When Pol Pot’s regime came to an end, they were more than happy to stop surviving on human flesh; but developed the taste for fried insects and tarantulas.
Do you want to know more about Cambodia? I’ve written a budget travel guide on how we were able to survive Cambodia in less than 1,000 PHP or 20 USD a day! Read about it on Budget Travel Guide – Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Check out our video trying fried insects in Siem Reap Cambodia here:
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- Must-Try Noodle Dishes in East AsiaMust-Try Noodle Dishes in East Asia – They say to wage a war among Asians is to argue which country has the best noodles.
- Siem Reap Cambodia Budget Travel Guide: P1,000 a dayHow two broke girls were able to survive and see Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia for only $20 or 1,000 PHP a day.
- Dare to Try: Fried Insects in CambodiaOn two afternoons during our Cambodia trip in June 2014, Aya and I went to the local market and feasted on something you wouldn’t expect: beetles, crickets, silkworms and tarantula. How did Cambodians develop such a taste for the exotic?