Gabriele Orlini

Tarantulas as a beauty elixir

Tarantulas are one of the most characteristic dishes of Cambodian cuisine and also a powerful elixir of beauty - they say.
Published on 28 August 2019
Tarantula, Cambodia | ©Gabriele Orlini, 2019
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This post is also available in: Italiano

Cambodia Journals | Skoun, 27 August 2019

We leave the capital city heading east.
The bus travels through the hot and scorching streets of the city centre only to find itself after not even half an hour under a torrential downpour.
The driver, who gave no sign of having noticed, continues his journey through the Cambodian province with the same driving temperament as at the start: full throttle. They also achieve a curious result: all the passengers go to sleep, some snore and the children are silent, probably lulled by the constant noise of the rain.

After all, the worst of endings is best experienced in the unconsciousness bestowed by Morpheus…
The ride continues, and shortly after two hours, at an unlikely roadside market, the bus stops. We are on the outskirts of Skoun, about 50km from Kampong Cham.
Lunch break!

Tarantulas at Skoun Market | ©Gabriele Orlini, 2019

Tarantula beauty elixir

Skoun is famous throughout Cambodia for one of the country’s most typical dishes: tarantulas.
It is said that Cambodians started eating fried spiders during Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime. Because of the great scarcity of food and the large presence of these large spiders in the countryside and forests, the peasants, gripped by hunger pangs, began to feed themselves with what they found available.

Other sources recognise the custom of fried tarantulas in more modern times, in the early 1990s, although it is not clear how this custom came about.
The fact remains that fried tarantulas – of which Skoun has the most famous market in the country – are now a delicacy and are particularly sought after by young people.

Tarantulas are bred in holes in the ground or collected in forests at the edge of the countryside. The dish is very simple in preparation: very hot oil is spiced with garlic and then the spiders, still alive, are dipped in the oil and removed when their legs are stiff and crispy.
Eaten whole as they are, the transition between the crispiness of the legs (devoid of meat) and the soft part inside the head and body is distinctive in the mouth. With a taste reminiscent of chicken or cod.

There is a fervent belief among young Cambodian girls: it seems that the tarantula is a veritable elixir of beauty and, perhaps to stand comparison with the Thai and Vietnamese, young girls from the countryside and provinces consider it a very important ritual.

Text: Gabriele Orlini 
Original text in Italian - In house translation
Skoun, Cambogia
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