Imaginative Traveller Director Charlie Hopkinson suggests the perfect gastronomic feast based on his recent trip to Cambodia
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. On the nose there are no floral or liquorish infusions; instead there is a distinctive scaly flavour, leaving you with a 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 guide tricked us into eating some and then with howls of laughter explained that we had just eaten the dreaded durian.
While we wait for the main course, your fruit should be followed by an amuse-bouche, a kind of bite-sized hors d’oeuvre. This 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 service station break. Imagine stopping at a Little Chef and ordering 2 tarantulas, a half dozen locusts and a bag of cockroaches. Actually from my memories of Little Chef, I think the spider was much tastier than their English breakfasts…. It was very good, with a nutty flavour, a quite 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 lets 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. Better still, take a trip out to Cambodia yourself and enjoy it as part of a full scale feast on the banks of the Mekong River in a restaurant run by and for the street kids of Phnom Penh.
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