There are a lot of strange foods hawked in Cambodia. Fried spiders are perhaps the strangest. They aren’t as popular in Phnom Penh as in the provinces, but when I was in Kampong Cham I had the opportunity to try one. I was at one of those roadside restaurants, waiting for the usual chicken gristle with rice, when a woman strolled by with a basket full of what looked like charred calamari. 500 riels ($0.13) per spider. I had to have one.
Fried spiders are a relatively recent food in Cambodia, with some speculating that the practice emerged as a result of food shortages during the Khmer Rouge years. The spiders are raised in dirt holes and harvested by flushing them out of their burrows with a stick. Toss them in a pan with some oil, a little garlic and a little MSG and fry them crispy black.
The best way to eat a fried spider is to imagine it’s a crab. Go for the legs first. I braced for the worst and had a nibble, but it wasn’t so bad. In fact, after a few legs I decided it was pretty decent. Kind of a beef jerky texture & dried shrimp flavor. The abdomen had a funny taste I couldn’t quite place, the rice had arrived, so I decided to move on to something a little more familiar.