Most visitors to Cambodia pass through the nondescript little town of Skuon at some point in their travels. Located at the junction of NR6 and NR7 between Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Kompong Cham, it’s one of the most important crossroads towns in Cambodia. What it’s really famous for, however, is its edible spiders – more precisely, a type of Asian tarantula, around 5cm across, known locally as ah pieng and considered something of a delicacy when deep-fried with a hint of salt and garlic. According to local gourmands they taste a bit like crunchy fried prawns and are best tackled as though eating a crab: pull off the legs and you can suck the flesh which comes away with them, though be wary of the body, as it can be unappetizingly slushy and bitter. Spiders also crop up around the country pickled in wine, a tonic especially favoured by pregnant women.
Quite how the practice of eating spiders began is something of a mystery. One theory suggests that it dates from the starvation years of Khmer Rouge rule, when desperate villagers began foraging for eight-legged snacks in the jungles of Kompong Thom province. Nowadays you’ll likely see platters piled high with spiders at restaurants in and around Skuon – a lot of buses stop here for a comfort break – giving you the chance to see, and perhaps even try, this unusual delicacy.