Culinary delights in Cambodia

Our Managing Director, Charlie Hopkinson, recently enjoyed our Best of Cambodia and Vietnam tour and composed the perfect menu based on his culinary experiences over there.


“Start with a glass of snake wine. Apparently snake wine is good for men!  This cheeky little number has a distinct effect on your pallet – there are no hints of blackberries, no soft tannins or vanilla undertones and no floral or liquorish infusions.  Instead there is a distinctive scaly flavour, leaving you with an unpleasant slimy pallet. On the nose there is the bouquet of a damp animal cage, but for lovers of an acidic finish, this certainly has it in bucket loads. As for its after effects, I could not possible comment….. you will need to ask my wife.


Next I recommend a selection of fruits, ensuring you include the lotus fruit, the cashew nut fruit (both delicious) and of course the absolutely revolting-smelling durian fruit. Actually it tastes OK, although I had vowed not to touch it because it stank so much, but our ever resourceful tour guide tricked us into eating some and then howled with laughter explaining that we had just eaten the dreaded durian.  Cambodia is awash with fruit and you must try as much as possible. We visited many of the local markets over the seven days of our stay and at every fruit stall someone wanted us to try a grape, a kumquat, or a slice of papaya.  


While we wait for the main course, your fruit should be followed by an amuse-bouche washed down by an atmospheric cocktail.  The amuse-bouche has to be an insect or two. Cambodia’s love of eating creatures with 6 or 8 legs comes from its sad recent history. During the dark days of the Pol Pot regime in the 70s, food was so scarce and famine so widespread that insects and spiders became a food of necessity. Bad habits die hard and today, spiders, locusts and cockroaches are everywhere in the markets.  En route to Siem Reap we had the obligatory ‘diesel fill and service station’ break. Imagine stopping at a Little Chef and ordering two tarantulas, half a dozen locusts and a bag of cockroaches.  Actually from my memories of Little Chef I think the spider was much tastier than LC’s English breakfast….  It was very good, with a nutty flavour, quite a fleshy body, but the legs were rather woody. Actually to be honest, the legs would have been better for flossing your teeth rather than eating.

So what cocktail goes well with Spider….? Anything really as long as it comes from the cocktail menu of the FCC bar in Phnom Penh.  Overlooking the wide expanse of the Mekong River, the Foreign Correspondents Club second floor bar still has a residual flavour of those dark days when the journalists’ postings were the only reflection of the turmoil happening inside the country.  They met at this bar with their translators and cronies to catch the next nugget of horrific news as the revolutionary armies of the Khmer Rouge advanced on the city. Echoes of the atmosphere can still be felt in the FCC.

But we are drifting off my menu so let’s get the main course ordered – it’s got to be a fiery beef loklak.  Look the menu up right now, go and buy the ingredients and cook it tonight. “

Has that whet your appetite?  Did you know you can also take a cookery lesson on this tour in Hoi An?  Tantalise the taste-buds and join us on an adventure in South East Asia today! 



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