About the Rambler

Welcome to my ramblings on dinner & drink, people & places, our planet’s health & the future of food. I’m a journalist, author and media trainer. My kitchen forever smells of garlic and curry. And much like my mother, I start thinking of dinner long before breakfast….

Dinner, With Legs

You have to understand, I have a thing about spiders. I’ve become much better with age. I no longer scream at a daddy long legs in the bathroom. I even admire the fist-sized monsters of an Asian jungle, and I neve intentionally kill them – not as I did in my childhood when all I wanted was to squash any and every creepy leggy thing out of existence.

But furry spiders on my plate? Deep-fried tarantulas doused in pepper-lime?


Spiders at Romdeng Restaurant. (Photo courtesy of Andy Bronson)

There they were, on the table before us at Romdeng. This was the dinner I had offered, for a superb cause, and this was the dish my dear guest, Yvonne, and our Oregon buddy, Andy, had talked me into ordering.

Deep-fried spiders – a dish for which the town of Skuon is famous. One of those dishes foreigners love to belabor, fixating on the exotic and weird. Yvonne – a French woman who studied in America, now lives in Japan and came to visit her Cambodian Chinese relatives on the outskirts of Phnom Penh – had long heard of this delicacy but never tried it. None of us at the table had eaten spiders before, so why not? Yvonne didn’t expect them to be so big, and I simply couldn’t believe I was lifting the hairy leg of an arachnid to my lips. Andy, who has a peculiar description for everything, decided: crunchy paper straw. “It’s flexible, that you can eat it, and it’s chewy, but it still has that hard paper feel. But that very lime and pepper flavor (from the sauce).”

Well said, Andy.

spider eaters

Andy, Yvonne and spider legs.

Alas, much more arrived at the table: banana flower salad with pork fat, three types of prahok (Andy could shove a whole spider body into his mouth but prahok he couldn’t do), fish and eggplant dip, pork and taro springrolls, fish stew with tomato and galangal, sweet rice-flour dumplings for dessert and two orders of mango with sticky rice.

And: fine conversation with Yvonne, who studies language development among youngsters, a topic which led to lengthy talk on speech and thought processes under the large umbrella of culture.

Thank you, Yvonne, for a lovely night out. My apologies to your relatives for keeping you out so late. And my apologies to the gracious Romdeng staff, as we shut down the restaurant well beyond closing time.

group shot

After dinner at the Romdeng entrance

10 comments to Dinner, With Legs

  • HGC

    I can’t believe you did that! You certainly have come a long way from that undergrad student at U of MT who called Mom in WI to ask how you could get rid of the spider on your windowsill–without touching it or getting too close, of course.

  • Mom in CA

    Nice photo, Andy! Was Jerry a little squeamish about the spiders?

  • They sell them live at the Central Market, if you ever care to have a look!

  • Once you eat escargot, frogs legs and oysters, why not spiders? Except, of course, that I have difficulty imagining much of a taste. But with galangal…

  • Jojo

    So, do they go out and catch the spiders, or raise them on the premises to eat?
    If they have to catch them, does that make them seasonal food?

  • Nik

    I always pegged Bronson as a spider-eater….

  • Hi all. Yes, I have grown much more accustomed to big crawling critters. We spent the past week in a remote village in Preah Vihear and the bathroom (shower by bucket; water lugged from a distant well) had a resident tarantula. I didn’t mind. I have seen the Central Market spiders, but I feel no great need to eat any more. Galangal would be a fine flavor addition, but I’ll still pass. Once is enough. From what I understand, the spiders were traditionally caught in times of famine, and they grew to be a favorite. I am not aware of a season, but I’ll check into it. Interesting question.

    Jerry did not like the spiders on the plate. He did not partake.

  • [...] Skuon and the deep fried spiders sold there have certainly put the town on the map. It is a popular place for tourists to stop and ooh, ahh and squeal over the sight and thought of eating spiders. Unfortunately that has made the main stopping point a bit of a circus and you tend to get harassed as soon as you get there. To experience spiders in a more refined atmosphere you can always head over to Romdeng in Phnom Penh as the writer of Rambling Spoon did recently on this post. Share this post:These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. [...]

  • [...] 6. Growing up, I also had an overblown fear of spiders. I’ve mostly grown out of that, but I still don’t like to eat them. 7. Sometimes, when I don’t feel like cooking, I’ll make a big bowl of popcorn and top [...]

  • [...] China), I’ve ridden on camels (in Tunisia and Mongolia), I’ve eaten a lot of strange things and along the way, I’ve met some truly amazing people. Not to mention I managed to marry the [...]

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