Cambodia is known for its rich history, unique culture, and apparently, its deep-fried spiders. A regional delicacy in the country, this dish is especially popular in Skun in the Kampong Cham Province, located about an hour and a half northeast of Cambodia’s capital. The village’s spider market is especially popular with tourists, who often pass through the connector city in their travels. In it, plates heaped high with fried tarantulas await the adventurous tourist who scoffs at more commonplace snacks like pork buns and banana bunches.
Fried tarantulas became popular in the late 1970s due to food shortages during the Khmer Rouge regime. A-ping, as the dish is called in Cambodia, is believed by many to make the consumer beautiful – and at the equivalent of 12 to 50 cents per spider, not at too steep a price for the average traveler.
The recipe usually involves caramelized sugar, salt, oil, and garlic. Pulling off a few of the spider’s legs to munch on first is the recommended way to eat them. The experience is somewhat like eating soft-shell crab. Tasting the tarantula’s abdomen means a gooey, nutty taste, and the flavor is either something one loves or tries to immediately forget.
Next time you’re passing between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, don’t forget to pass through Skun, and take a chance on a fried tarantula.