Out on tour over here in South East Asia you should always be able to find yourself some adventures foods to sample. I would say that from every part of this region you could try something off the rails. Like say over in Vietnam up in the far northern capital city of Hanoi I know this great little café that serves up a great fried dog, that comes with chili, garlic, basil, and lemon grass. Many times now in Vietnam I had tried the snake and the snake blood as your supposed to kill it fresh right there before cooking it. Than there is over in Bangkok, the local street food sellers that wheel their cart around to sell fried bugs. They even have a sign that says 10 Baht to just take a photo of the fried grasshopper, crickets, and cockroaches to name just a few that they have on offer.
Well this time I just want to share with you a very nice local restaurant over in Cambodia that serves up modern Cambodian cuisine. As to most things in Cambodia are one big adventure after another that does not stop with the local food scene there at all. I have been taking my groups there now for some time to this charitable restaurant called ‘Friends’ in Phnom Penh. This restaurant is a charity restaurant/ teaching restaurant, as all of the staff are former street kids that are trying to learn a skill before heading out and getting a good job on the outside. So they train up chefs, servers and bar staff. The food that they focus on is modern day Cambodian cuisine but with some fun twists.
On this one night out with my group back a few months ago I made it appoint to try this dish that I saw last time on the menu. It basically says sliced beef, with garlic, chili, peppers and oh red ants. And well really not just a few of those little guys, this is a massive portion. I had a few pax just really push me to order it and make it my dinner. So I was like well what the hell I will give it a try. This might be pretty tame from a country where the street food of fried crickets, cockroaches, and all sorts of bugs is total norm over here. Also even at this nice restaurant you can even order the tarantula fried on a plate with a nice chili and lime dipping sauce. See photo below.
Ok so beside that little fried spider I had took up the challenge of my dish. When the dish finally did come to my table everyone raced over to take a look at it and wanted to get some good photos of the before and after shot of me attempting to eat it. I think it was a good laugh as I sit at the head of the table and everyone came over to take photos of this dish and than go the other end and ready their cameras for the big shot of me eating it. Well when it was sitting in front of me I would say that the plate just only looked like it was full of sliced beef and veg with a lot of sauce. But after further inspection you can see the mounds of red aunts that they dumped into my dish and then quickly tossed around in the wok. So I finally dug my fork into the dish and just pulled out some very spicy and tasty beef with some veg. Everyone was like ohhh nooo Briiiiannnn.
In all honestly I didn’t think it was all that bad but really to get the full taste of the red ants you needed a spoon as they were just swimming in chili sauce. So once I finally did take the spoon full with the chili sauce beef and plenty of red ants I got what the taste I was supposed to now. The taste of the bursting red aunts popping inside your mouth is like small little citrus bubbles all popping at different times. I really can only describe it as that. Towards the end of the meal you do find yourself rolling your tongue around the back of your mouth for that stray red ant that might be hiding behind your molar. I must say that the meal was really good and the beef was cooked perfect and so were the ants. So the next time your Phnom Penh pop into ‘Friends’ Restaurant and try that dish or any other of their strange local dishes prepared very well.