Amanda vs. Food: Spiders in Cambodia

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When it comes to learning about a new culture, I'm a big believer that food is a major part of the learning process. How, when, and what people eat can give you a lot of insight into not only their diet, but also their culture and beliefs.

But, I won't lie — some food traditions are just weird.

You've probably heard that bugs show up on the menu in many countries. As snacks, usually, but sometimes as regional delicacies, too.

Cambodia is one of the countries where you'll find bugs for sale at many markets. Not just any kind of bugs, though.

Cambodia's bug specialty is big, juicy, fried SPIDERS.

Fried spiders in Cambodia

Now, I'm not really afraid of spiders. I mean, I don't particularly LIKE them with their too-many legs and their sinister way of scuttling across floors and up walls. But I usually don't scream when I'm around them.

Spiders in Cambodia
See? That's me with a live spider!

But EATING a fried tarantula? I wasn't sure I could do it.

 

During my tour of Cambodia with Intrepid Travel, we had a planned stop in a town called Skuon in between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The town is known for its touristy highway market where kids ply you with bags of fruit and other snacks — including bugs.

The village, often referred to as “Spiderville,” is a top spot to try Cambodia's delicacy of fried spiders.

Fried spiders in Cambodia

The day before (when I let a live tarantula climb up my arm at a restaurant), I was fully prepared to at least nibble on a leg in Spiderville. They were crunchy, people had said. I could handle crunchy.

But a sleepless night spent hugging the toilet in my hotel room with a bout of mild food poisoning changed my plans. The thought of eating ANYthing that morning — let alone a crunchy spider leg — sent my stomach churning.

And so, I could do nothing but commend my fellow adventurous travelers and politely decline the snacks offered to me over and over by a persistent Cambodian girl with a live spider tucked into her shirt.

Eating spiders in Cambodia

In this food battle, the food won.

I'll eat you next time, spiders. Next time…

What do you think? Would YOU try a spider?

 

*Note: I visited Spiderville as part of a complimentary tour of Vietnam and Cambodia with Intrepid Travel. As always, though, all opinions are my own.

If you're interested in the Cambodia portion of this same trip, check it out here.

Cambodian Traveler tour

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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59 Comments on “Amanda vs. Food: Spiders in Cambodia

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  1. I think this is a post I will have semi-nightmares about for a while 🙂 I don’t have arachnophobia but seeing those images and knowing that people (willingly) eat them…too much for me! But to each one’s culture I guess!

    P.S. I’ve been offered fried grasshoppers and ants when in Mexico…never tried, never will.I am not a fan of the insect variety!

      Haha, sorry Julie! I think one of these days I’ll try fried bugs. But this day in Cambodia just wasn’t it!

    Just three words: Oh HELL no!!

    I tried! My Intrepid tour leader bought one and doled out legs!!! I tried one and ended up spitting it out – it tasted horrible. Just before that I did manage to eat a deep fried cricket though. That market in Skuon was the stuff of nightmares.

      If you are afraid of bugs, yes, that market is indeed the stuff of nightmares!!

      Haha, the spider didn’t taste like chicken?!? I’ve been misled…

    I agree with you about trying local customs but there are a few lines I just can’t cross. I have eaten bull testicles, octopus and fried rat but I really am terrified of spiders and I almost cried just looking at this. This is just a no for me.

      Well I really appreciate you reading the post then! But yeah, I totally understand – there are some lines that it’s totally fine to refuse to cross!

    Urgh! I’m absolutely TERRIFIED of spiders, so a pile of enormous dead spiders as a food option would be my hell on earth. The only thing that could make it worse would be if they were all alive and scuttling.

    I like to think I would try most foods (and I happily took chicken essence when I had a bad knee in Singapore), but I would probably have to draw the line at this!

      I can totally understand! Personally, the idea of fried scorpions actually freaks me out more than spiders, I think. They are scuttle-y PLUS have a stinger and pincers! Blech.

    I was offered a bit of spider by a fellow traveller in Phnom Penh last summer. I’d already had a bit of frame grilled dragonfly in the jungles of Ratanakiri, so had one of the legs- quite chewy and didn’t taste of much more than the barbecue sauce. Nobody could face eating the body though!

      At least two people in our group ate the body… *shudder.* The looks on their faces suggested that it tasted horrible!

    I don’t blame you for not trying whether you were sick or not. I don’t think I could do it, well maybe a nibble on the leg but that’s it. I think I’d still be creeped out picking up the dead spider let alone eating it.

      If I hadn’t been sick, I think I would have at least nibbled on a leg, just to say I did. But considering we still had a couple of hours to go on a mini bus, I didn’t want to risk it!

    eeeeeew! Good on you for giving it a shot, I don’t think I could do that! I can barely even look at a spider that big from a distance without shaking in my boots! In NZ we have a wild foods festival, and they serve different random (and gross!) foods like that – some people are so brave!

      I’ve heard about the Wild Food Festival in NZ! I think it would be fun to go someday.

    Wow, Amanda. Respect for even contemplating eating a spider. I will be in Cambodia this time next week and am considering this post to be a warning!

      Hahaha, don’t visit Spiderville if you don’t like spiders!!

    I wouldn’t call other different food cultures weird just because I am not used to them. I saw markets in Chiang Mai Thailand selling roasted bugs, crickets and worms and it was fascinating, but I could never eat them. I wish I had the guts to do it though. You are so brave with that spider, I scream for a microscopic one, and you have a huge one on your arm!!! That is amazing.

      Well, they are weird to me! And, I haven’t met any non-local who would consider eating giant fried spiders normal. 😉 But yeah, always interesting to head to the market in this part of the world!

    *Shudders* I stopped in Skuon during my very first week in Southeast Asia. I HATE spiders! I was terrified! I was also told that if I didn’t get off the bus the local kids would throw the spiders at me somehow. So, off I the bus I got and kept my distance from the spidery action. Eventually, a friend convinced me to at least taste the leg of one barbequed spider. It wasn’t great. I could taste the hairs on its leg! UGH! Blech! I’m all about trying new foods but spider is not one I’d snack on again!!

      You could taste the hairs? Gross!!! Good on you for facing your fears though!

    Hahaha that music on your video just does it all:D
    I have to say I read this entire post with a face that reflected disgust.
    I know it’s stupid and that it’s a cultural thing, but yikes, that doesn’t look yummy at all:D
    I think I’d try them, though. At least a leg or so:D

      Haha, I had fun making the video, if you couldn’t tell. 😉

    I’m a fairly adventurous eater and have tried a whole bunch of weird things during our time in Asia, but even I passed on the giant tarantulas. I’m not arachnophobic either, but I just can’t imagine those being delicious. I have heard the middle bit is squishy and has some kind of funky ooze inside of it… If I was with a local who felt very strongly that I try them because they personally loved eating spiders, I would probably have given it a try, but part of me wonders whether this isn’t just some big gag to see what they can get tourists to eat! (I definitely felt that way in Beijing, by the way, where they have streets devoted to selling the freakiest foods possible and honestly, only foreigners were buying and trying it!)

      Hahahaha that’s an awesome theory, Steph! They’re probably just all laughing at us behind our backs. 😉

    Exotic Asian street food! I tried a few but I didn’t try spider. It feels creepy chewing them.Haha! Nice try Amanda!

      The fact that “it feels creepy chewing” bugs might just put me off them altogether!

    Ack! Excellent question! And thanks for posting your experience too. I’ve often wondered if I could eat a spider or other bugs. I dig crunchy, salty, spicy… but I don’t know if I could do hairy, pokey, and well… spidery. I’d like to think I would, but I’m not 100% sure about that.

      Maybe try something small like a cricket first and then work your way up?

    All those legs..the crunch..the hairiness..I just can’t. I commend you for letting one crawl on your arm!

      Weird as it may sound, it was really soft on my arm!

    I would have thought eating those could give you a… stomach bug. Badum tsh.

    Sorry, that was bad. You’re definitely brave for trying that.

      Hahahaha. Oh how I love a good bad pun.

    Gah! It makes me cringe just looking at this! I’ve tried a scorpion, though I was 2 buckets deep in whiskey at the time haha.

      Scorpions creep me out way more than spiders!

    […] exploring the Angkor temples, had fun riding the bamboo train, and was even amused by watching people eating spiders. But I was also deeply saddened by visiting the Killing Fields, and disturbed to see how much the […]

    Gosh! I admire your sentiments! I’m not afraid of spiders or insects in principle. I have 3 brothers and I’m the only girl… Over the years I’ve had a scorpion under the blanket, beatles in my shoes, and lizards put on my back!

    I’ve tried cricket (crunchy), and snake (tasted like chicken), but I’m not sure about actually eating one and gulping! A spindly leg perhaps, but please no hair or moving parts!

      Well, these ones were decidedly dead at least – so no moving parts on the ones people were eating!

    I agree with you Amanda about trying different food from touristic places but there are certain things that are so extreme and if some people can handle and get the experience is respectable but I won´t be able to eat an spider, no way.

      Haha, fair enough, Christina!

    Haha this is really interesting. I’ve been to Cambodia myself and in the battle against the spider feast, food won against me too (though I did have a quick bite on the hairy leg – and surprisingly it’s better than the dried snake and frog). Haven’t given up on the spider too – maybe next time!

      Haha! Maybe next time for both of us.

    I tried one in Siam Reap after rather few beers. It wasn’t good. I gagged a lot and had to try very hard to not vomit in the street. My friends enjoyed it though.
    But hey I’ve eaten a Tarantula, I feel a sense of justice after all of the huntsmen and orb weavers regularly scared the shit out of me when I was living in Australia.

      Hahaha, you got your revenge!

    In April, 2015 we visited the market and feasted on fried tarantulas, silkworm cocoons and grasshoppers. It was an experience to remember and was something cultural to experience.Overall the tarantula tasted the best as to was very crunchy in texture. Maybe older people are more prepared to give things a go.

      Good on you! I think some people in general are more adventurous about food than others. I’m not sure that age really has anything to do with it!

    I was in Cambodia this April and stopped at this town.
    Tried every insect and at the end ended up buying a Baggie to take with me and eat as snacks.

    Was surprised how tasty they were. Fried with peppers and garlic.

    If you are ever in Peru you have to try the Alpaca. Best meat ever and the guniea pig was also tasty

      Which bug was your favorite??

    HI There

    I had just been wondering how ppl could eat those spiders.I live in South Africa and I have about 150 Tarantula spidersas pets and co get a Thai Zebra in our country is so scarce and hard to come by…….do you perhaps got any contacts in Cambodia who I can get in touch with to bring a breeding pair in fro myself?

    Thanks

    Deon

      No, I’m sorry, I don’t have any contacts in Cambodia that could get you spiders.

    I’m currently on a food tour of Cambodia with Intrepid. We tried Cricket, Silk worm, Water Beetle and Fried Spider. When in Rome and all that…

      You are much braver than me! Haha. Hope you’re enjoying the tour though!

    I haven’t had them the way they are done in Cambodia, but I did have a breaded and deep fried one…well the legs anyway. The thing is I am a lifelong arachnophobe. In my teen years I once found a large wolf spider on the screen door at my grandfathers summer cabin. He told me to man up and kill it myself so i did so, and did it in the only way I felt was sensible. That was with a .12 gauge double barrel shotgun. Needless to say the basketball sized chunk of perforated screen door didn’t amuse my grandfather much. I digress, the whole point is that even though I am terrified of them, eating one felt…kinda good. It was like “**** you spider!!! I’m EATING you! I win” I haven’t got the nerve to prepare one myself, but the breaded variety makes it easier to talk yourself into it I think.

      Hahaha. Yes, you definitely win when you’re munching on one of their legs.

    […] there. We hear tales of terrible hostel beds, torrential rainfall on the first day of a honeymoon, eating spiders legs for […]

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