(If you want to know what is guaranteed to give you gastro and why you should think twice before ordering a boiled egg click here for part 1)
I’ve always been game to try street food, food ordered for me by locals or food in people’s home but some settings are even intimidating to me.
Travelling with food-obsessed local Sreyda on Paleriders’ motorbike tour of Cambodia lead to experiences that we would have otherwise missed. Travelling with someone who knew the language, especially in rural areas really paid off.
On our way to Kartie we stopped for lunch along the Mekong at some basic wooden shelters that offered no hint as to what was on offer. There are no signs, no menu and definitely no English spoken.
I was pleasantly surprised when we were given papaya salad with what I’m going to christen Khmer potato cakes because that’s essentially what they were. Slices of a white sweet potato like vegetable, battered and deep-fried. We washed this meal down with freshly squeezed sugar cane juice.
As we became more adventurous with our food choices Sreyda became more enthusiastic about introducing us to new foods. A stand out for me was a sort of salad version of banh xeo where all of the ingredients including the savoury rice batter crepe were all mixed together. We ate this in the northern town of Anlong Veng, sitting on the floor of the Khmer rouge commander Ta Mok’s partially destroyed mansion.
On our way into Siem Reap we stopped at some shacks for palm sugar lollies that tasted not dissimilar to butterscotch. At first we were worried about the flies swarming on the sweet treats but on closer inspection we realised that they were actually bees.
But the sweet treat that I enjoyed the most was the sticky rice cooked over a fire in bamboo. Again at nondescript stalls along the roadside that offered no hint of what was available to unaccompanied traveller.
As night falls in the Cambodia countryside you might notice neon lights flickering to life. At first I put this down to people turning the lights on in their homes but actually they were hunting… crickets.
Crickets are caught by shining a light against a piece of plastic suspended above a pool of water. The crickets, attracted to the light fly into the plastic and fall into the water where they are scooped up. I spied some for sale in the market cooked up with onion and chilli. At a glance it looked appetising but like the duck foetus eggs I couldn’t go there.