Tarantulas at Romdeng
I'd expected tarantulas of the size seen in James Bond movies, but most are smaller. They live in holes in the ground and the trick to catching them, I'm informed, is to put a stick in the hole and when they come out grab them with two fingers from the back, and the fangs can't reach you.
And why would you do this? Well, there's a spider market called Skuon north of Phnom Penh where spiders are sold. Tarantulas were used for traditional medicine, and considered good for the heart, lungs and throat not just in Cambodia. They're a snack. But under Pol Pot food was scarce, although most forsook tarantula soon after.
Tarantulas are on the menu at the excellent Khmer restaurant Romdeng. Tree Alliance provides a path to hospitality for marginalised youth, but the food is to die for, and they have five restaurants. I tried three. Marum in Siem Reap was good, a short journey down an unpaved road not far and across the river from FCC Angkor. Friends and Romdeng in Phnom Penh were better, with terrific passionfruit and strawberry smoothies (and the ice is safe!). Food is very tasty but not hot. Friends has red ants as their 'signature dish' and Kampot crab (great). Romdeng has tarantulas. These turned out to be crunchy, and the peppery sauce drowned out the flavour (which might have been like chicken). I say a visit is a must!
It seems the popular way to cook tarantulas is with soy sauce, garlic and salt and to fry them until crispy. The body is the best part, as the legs are hairy.
Coming up - the next few photos go to a dark place. I took a tuk-tuk to Tuol Sleng (S21) and Choeung-Ek, one of the killing fields.