PENH (Cambodia): Creepy-crawlies on the dining table is hardly a fascinating thought unless one happens to be in Cambodia where hesitant drivers of the ASEAN car rally ended up enjoying deep fried tarantula spiders and crickets during a halt.
The Tarantula spiders, a popular snack in this part of the world, were served along with crickets, as starters at the Solar Cafe, where the convoy stopped for lunch.
The moment the spiders and crickets were served on the table, it aroused curiosity among the participants but they began gorging on them in no time.
One of the Team India drivers, Ejji K Umamhaesh, who calls himself an omnivorous, enjoyed the experience quite a lot.
“I had the tarantula spiders in 2004. It was delicious and I was waiting to have it again. There is a village around 40km from here, they breed spiders there and now the village is known as Spider Ville,” he said.
“These spiders are fried along with the eggs and excreta as it is not possible to remove them,” he added.
Adventure Overland co-owner Tushar Agarwal, who is driving car no 9 for Team India, had the tarantula spiders for the first time.
“Well, I was scared initially but it was good. It tasted like chicken. I had two of them and it was delicious.”
In the Cambodian town of Skuon, the vending of fried spiders as a specialty snack is a popular attraction for tourists passing through this town.
Spiders are also available elsewhere in Cambodia — in Phnom Penh for instance — but Skuon, a market town on the highway 75 kilometres from the capital, is the centre of their popularity.
Another Team India driver, Jyoti Kalash, who is also a senior IAS officer and an actor, said it is all about getting over fears.
“Last year, I had tried but I could not as I had a mental block. But this time I had it and it tasted good. I liked it,” he said.
Esther Ding, the owner of Solar Cafe, said: “I bought these spiders fresh today especially for the rally participants. One spider here costs around 50 cent and they are a hit with the tourists.”
While some enjoyed it, there were some who decided to not to give in to the temptation of the crispy tarantulas.
“Well, I have a mental block. I know nothing will happen and I am sure it is delicious but I prefer not to try it,” a participant said.
Bijoy Kumar, Chief Mahindra Adventure initiatives, was scared of spiders since childhood but he finally exorcised his fears.
“I have been scared all my life of spiders, so I was scared to see it in the plate. But its okay now, it tastes like chicken wings,” he said.