Skewered mongoose and other appetizing fare

Cambodians eat anything that moves, together with fish and rice - not very friendly to vegetarians.

thai market 88 (photo credit: )
thai market 88
(photo credit: )
One of the best ways to get to know a country is by eating local delicacies. As a vegetarian who is allergic to fish, Cambodia was as far from gastronomical paradise as I could get. Cambodians consume anything that moves, and everything is cooked with fish. Rice is the primary staple. Bobor (rice porridge) with prahoc (fermented fish paste) is a national tradition and is eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Special bobor comes with fresh fish bits and ginger. Salad dishes are aplenty but forget the Israeli idea of fresh vegetables on a bed of lettuce leaves. Cambodian salads include beef, fish and occasionally chicken. The locals here find it wholly acceptable to eat insects, fish bladders and algae. For Khmers, tarantulas in garlic are a delicacy, rats are a basic part of rural diets, skewered mongoose is a principal provision among the Pnong people and dried hedgehog with honey is a recognized cure for stomach ailments. Not surprisingly, I lost two kilos during my three-week adventure here. I survived on fruits and cookies. Fortunately, Cambodia has many tropical fruits including bananas, pineapples, coconuts (excellent source of re-hydration), pomelos, custard apples and langdons (like lychees). In the east, I found something called Num-duang-chek which was truly delicious - banana, coconut and rice barbecued in a banana leaf. White coffee was another thing I found tasty - basically, it's black coffee with condensed milk. Rice wine is a popular staple among the minority people - it is said to be super potent. The rest of Cambodians are hearty beer drinkers. As refrigeration is scarce, locals add ice to their lager - that's right, they drink beer on the rocks. And while the menu offerings weren't especially pleasing to my taste buds, the marketplace was awesome for photography purposes. Some of the unusual fare I saw included yolks in a plastic bag, snakes in a basket and halved fish intended for easy snacking.