A taste of fried tarantula in Cambodia

Cambodia travel destination is not only holiday getaway with its historical sites and natural attractions, but also popular the local exotic food “fried tarantula”.

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Tarantulas first started meeting with woks in large numbers during the tragically widespread food shortages of the brutal 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime. After the Khmer Rouge were ousted, Cambodians realized that their crafty survival skills had rewarded them with a tasty new chapter of gastronomy.

Most people suffered from hunger so they would just eat anything that they would find edible. The necessity resulted to a traditional exotic dish and aside from tarantulas, locals also eat scorpions, grasshoppers and silkworms. Nowadays, the A-ping has become a popular snack that both signify the history and culture of Cambodia. There are also other interesting superstitious beliefs about this dish because the locals say that eating one would make you beautiful.

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Women around the area believe that the snacks have cosmetic properties and can enhance your natural beauty. If you eat the legs first, you can get long and lustrous hair too. The Cambodians also believe that the tarantulas have medicinal properties. They are very useful for soothing back aches and treating breathing problems found in children. They are considered to be more effective when served with rice wine.

Fried spider is a popular and favorite dish is Cambodia. They are a specialty snack that also attract the tourist population here. They are also bred in special holes in the villages of north Skuon. According to experts, the eating habit of fried spiders may have started due to desperation when there was shortage in food supply. The spiders used for the snacks belong to the species called tarantula and are known as ‘a-ping.’ They are the size of a human palm. The cost of the snack was about 300 riel ($0.08) in 2002. According to a travel book, the spiders are known as Haplopelma albostriatum, also called the zebra tarantula. The species is also known as ‘edible spider’ for more than hundreds of years.

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While you can find a vendor or two hawking trays of a-ping in Kampong Thom and Phnom Penh alike, the town of Skuon—75 kilometers north of Phnom Penh—is the epicenter of a-ping cuisine, and close to the spiders’ underground burrows where they are harvested. In nearby forests, children and adults set about tarantula hunting, searching for the small holes in the ground that are home to the spiders. They spend a few minutes poking a stick down the hole and making chirping sounds to bring them out of hiding. As soon as a spider shows its face, it is caught bare-handed.

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