Musings, Travel & Adventure

No Tarantulas In Food Heaven

Tommy and I have eaten a few new things since coming to Southeast Asia: Tarantula, cobra, and crocodile, to name a few. Now, these creatures-turned-cuisine might not exactly tempt you to get in a plane and fly over here, dying to sample the local fare. But have I mentioned that when I stepped out of the van into Thailand, I stepped straight into heaven?

Oh, yes. Food heaven.

Everywhere I look, there are food carts loaded with frying, sizzling, tempting tasty treats — and no, not the 8-legged hairy kind. I had heard rumors about Thailand’s food; that it is a haven for foodies with all of its spice and flavor. I guess I just needed to see for myself. Now that I’m here, I can fully, truly, 100% confirm these reports — and I’ve barely even touched the surface of all the things you can eat here.

Let me give you a few tiny little examples: You can have fresh seafood — lobster, crab, fish of all kinds, scallops and mussels and shrimp. You can have pulled pork and fried chicken and fish grilled on a stick. You can choose from more fresh fruit than you’ve ever seen in your life — bananas, pineapple, mango, dragonfruit, papaya, apples and oranges, grapes and pomelo, and several fruits I cannot even identify. Coconuts practically fall into your lap however you like: shredded or blended in a shake or handed to you whole with a straw poked into the top and brimming with coconut water. If you want a local flavor, you can devour fried rice, coconut curry, or pad thai off the street (or you can merely eat these things like a civilized human; I of course did the devouring), or if you want something with a European flair, eat shepherd’s pie at the local English pub or sample fresh French croissants from a local bakery. You can stop to buy a cup of steamed corn straight off the cob, a sliced banana folded into a paper-thin crepe and drizzled with chocolate, or my personal favorite, the Turkish kebab, which is made from a huge slow-roasted slab of meat, slices of which are rolled into a wrap with vegetables and sauces. I’ve eaten four kebabs this week. The one night I didn’t eat one, I was actually disappointed, but was too stuffed from the pad thai previously devoured to even think about attempting it. If all of these tantalizing offers don’t capture your attention and you’re just craving something familiar, there are of course several McDonald’s, a Subway, a KFC and a Pizza Hut all within walking distance. But don’t do it, my friends. Don’t do it.

The experiences of eating are almost as enjoyable as the food itself. Standing around a street stall, sitting in plastic chairs along a busy street, or strolling the market are all fun ways to enjoy Thai cuisine. A favorite food experience so far was a great little restaurant in Pattaya called Shabushi that we visited with our friend Marilyn. At Shabushi, you pay a flat fee and then choose a seat along one of many conveyor belts that wind through the restaurant. In front of you sits a little pot on a high-heat burner. On the conveyor belt, countless tiny plates pass by in front of you, each one containing a small portion of some interesting ingredient. When you see something you like, you simply add it to your pot. Cook as long as you like, and by the end you have a savory dish of your own making. It might be spicy; it might be garlicy. Be careful though — your time limit is one hour! My pot had noodles, shrimp, chicken, cabbage, egg, water morning glory, garlic, chilli pepper, and some other unidentifiable things. (I’ve learned that sometimes it’s better when you just don’t know.) Oh man, it was good. And such a fun experience!

They say a watched pot never boils but my pot at Shabushi sure did:

photo (1)

Oh, right… I was just going to give you a few tiny little examples. Oops.

But really, this insane amount of food is not good considering one of my greatest loves in life is eating; I am trying to limit my intake of fried things and also limit my output of money. But since I have to walk to get most of this food, I figure I am justified. I am not quite lazy enough — or perhaps too lazy — to go figure out the bus system, so I am also saving money by not paying bus fares. So walking to get food kind of cancels out the food, right? It’s like I never ate it…

Here is just a sampling of the many, many good things we have been feasting on since arriving almost two weeks ago.

Piles and piles of fruit:

photo11

photo7

Fried chicken better than KFC’s (and healthier, I’m sure):

photo12

Don’t want to carry around whole pieces of fried chicken? Buy it grilled on a stick instead:

photo8

Ice cold coconut? Don’t mind if I do!

photo5

Speaking of coconut, this shake contains fresh coconut, pineapple, and banana:

photo13

Pad thai, so good it’s gone in the blink of an eye:

photo18

Grilled corn on the cob, which you can also buy in the form of kernels smashed into sweet potatoes and rolled into balls. Oh yummy:

photo3

And my two biggest weaknesses of all:

Weakness #1: Banana crepes. HOLY SHMOLY:

photo4

Weakness #2: The Turkish Kebab. I think this is #4. Or maybe #9. I lost count:

photo2

This is all quite inexpensive, in case I haven’t mentioned that before. Tommy and I have gotten to the point where if we see a meal for more than three or four dollars, we say, “Nah, too expensive,” and walk away. Three dollars is actually a splurge; usually we are in the one to two dollar range.

I think you are getting the picture. I don’t need to rub it in anymore. But if this doesn’t convince you to visit Southeast Asia at some point in your lives, then I don’t know what will. If you’re looking for me, anyway, I’ll be stuffing my face at some food stall in Thailand. Possibly eating my 178th kebab. It’s too soon to tell.

Probably not eating my 2nd tarantula, which is fine with me.

Musings, Travel & Adventure

Eating Spiders

On Friday, I did something I’ve never exactly had on my bucket list: I ate a tarantula. Our group stopped in Skuon, nicknamed “Spiderville,” on our way to Siem Reap to try the famous (infamous?) fried tarantulas. Tommy and I discussed this beforehand: Should we or shouldn’t we? However, it seemed like one of those things a person should do while in Cambodia, just to say she did.

That was until I got off the bus.

IMG_1604

Awaiting us at Skuon was a wide variety of fried bugs, literally everywhere. The bus ride had been hot and bumpy, I wasn’t feeling so great, and, seeing great piles of black crispy spiders and other insects all over the place,  suddenly my desire to eat a tarantula “just to say I did” was diminished to nothing. Plus, a handful of kids were running around selling fruit to the silly American tourists and also, scaring the silly American tourists with live tarantulas.

The good news is, they targeted Tommy and not me.

IMG_1596

The kids at Skuon are incredible salespeople. First of all, they are remarkably persistent. Second of all, they employ tactics such as crying, pleading, and chattering your ear off to get you to buy a dollar’s worth of fruit. There was one little girl whose pineapple I didn’t buy, and she gave me the most attitude I’ve ever seen from a tiny person — hand on hips, eye rolls, the whole works. Attitude clearly transcends language barriers. She also followed me to the bus when we were leaving, found my window and glared at me until we pulled away. I have to say, for two feet tall she was actually kind of intimidating.

One little girl who latched onto Tommy, however, simply employed the friendly tactic. From the moment Tommy got off the bus, she shadowed him. She showed him around, talked to him about America, and also made some hilarious comments about his eyes. “You have really blue eyes! You have long eyelashes! And they are curly, like a girl! Do you wear makeup?” She was quick to point out that she and I both had hearts on our bracelets. And she even helped us when we finally decided to eat a tarantula.

IMG_1598

Yes, we did finally try one. And Tommy bought a bag of pineapple from her just to wash it down. Her friendly tactic worked pretty well in the end.

It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever eaten, but it was, not surprisingly, pretty weird. It tasted like burnt char with a flavor that I can only assume is unique to spider, considering it was unlike anything I ever tasted before.

At least now I can say I did it, right?

Before:

IMG_1600

After:

IMG_1601