A lunch stop in Kampong Them
On the road from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap there is a great restaurant called Arunras. It is full of locals who have stopped on their various journeys and one or two tourists. I had a big plate of fried Morning Glory and a big plate of mixed fried mushrooms with steamed rice and both were delicious. Service is speedy the food is cheap and as I have discovered in most of Asia now local tea is complimentary…I knew there was a reason I liked Asia so much! Well worth a visit if you are passing.
Next to the restaurant is extensive markets selling just about anything. The interesting trio of fried tarantula, silk worm and cricket were there along with a multitude of other snacks. A little warning though if you have a problem with spiders (live ones that is) you need eyes in the back of your head as many of the kids wandering around have tarantulas as pets clinging to their clothes and they will offer one to you to hold or stroke. Apparently the poisonous bit has been removed so its not dangerous but they are still big and hairy!
There was a wealth of fruit both fresh and dried. The kids will try to sell you bags of cut up pineapple and will follow you around the whole time so if you don’t want the pineapple your powers of determination need to be sharp! I bought a bag of extremely colourful candied fruit which was very sweet but very very good probably the best I’ve tasted on this trip. It consisted of red dates, pineapple, pomelo peel (which has a bitterness that counteracts the sweetness well) and mango. Deliciousness in a bag.
There was plenty of seafood on offer which looked very fresh and well iced to keep it that way.
A delicacy in Cambodia (and I think much of south east Asia) is fermented fish paste. It smells very bad and doesn’t look at all appetising! I have tried it and it tastes better than it smells and looks but is definitely a required taste! Most markets have big pots of it you can then buy a spoon full…you will smell it before you see it!
And finally the meat section. This seemed the most different from a western market. It had big raised areas that the meat was on with women sat amongst the meat ready to chop up whatever you wanted. The meat in Asia often sits out in the sun for quite a while that is why many recipes require it to be thoroughly boiled and stewed before using to kill off any bad bacterias. I have always loved a market and it is great to wander round and discover different and unusual foods. You just have to be a little brave and taste things to discover new and wonderful flavours.