What's that old saying.... When in Rome do as.....
So... when in Cambodia, eat like the Cambodians! But eat fried "Water Beetles?"
A whole bag of these little slippery fried "Water Beetles" doesn't cost that much, and the locals love them! I watched a friend smack his lips as he methodically cleaned the "Water Beetles" before popping them into his mouth. Solasi, a young Canadian Khmer now now traveling in Cambodia has been my local guide for the last few days.... showing me Siem Reap and explaining the local culture. His parents escaped to Canada from Cambodia in 1975 just as the Khmer Rouge took power. Solasi was 5 years old at the time, so has some strong memories of that brutal time in Cambodia's history.
In addition to having lengthy philosophical discussions on life with him, Solasi showed me the best places to eat, which restaurants served the strongest coffee, and with his Khmer girl friend, took me to some of the really hot (literally and figuratively) discos in town! Quite a learning experience for me! I'm mean... not often do I get home at 1:30 a.m. from a night of .... well... a night of partying!
But back to the "Water Beetles!"
Quite a process to prepare the oily little black critters before one can pop them into one's mouth.... First the six legs need to be removed.... then... this very hard and sharp barb that protrudes from its abdomen needs to be snapped off without jabbing it into one's fingers.... next the hard outer shell that cover its back needs to be removed... and last but not least... both of the wings must be pulled off. Whew! I'm tired again from just thinking about it!
Now the four steps really should sound relatively easy..... right? Yes they should be easy, but for a novice like me... it took me forever to painstakingly get the bug ready so that I could eat it! Since they are cooked in oil, the bugs are extremely slippery and at several points, the bug flew out of my hands and across the table.
Solasi's Khmer girlfriend burst out laughing, unable to contain herself as she watched me fumble with my black bug.
Hmmmmm good! Tastes just like chicken! Well... not exactly!
The bug itself seems to have a kind of nutty flavor. It has a very definite crunch when you bite down on it.... but the rather foul tasting oily flavor really coats the whole inside of the mouth and not even several pints of Cambodian beer could make the taste disappear from my mouth! For that to happen... it took Crest Toothpaste and a whole lot of scrubbing of my entire mouth to clean away all the oil.... and bug!