When you are in a different country, far from your own, and you want to gorge on the cuisine of that country, what do you do?
You can either lookup best eating places in TripAdvisor and head for them, or, you can book food tours conducted by locals.
I opted for the later one, and it was an amazing experience. And also that, I could contribute something by being part of the tour, run by locals.
I am also sure, I would have never been able to eat at these local restaurants, on my own.
Few Facts :
- There are a lot of service providers. Choose one, which employs locals. This is because, you would get a more authentic experience and also that you would be able to contribute to their well being. I opted for a company called Siem Reaper. Their pitch is that it is owned by a Cambodian and they also contribute to locals of Cambodia.
- The quality of tours are more or less the same. What would differ, is the personal touch provided by the guide. In my case, the guide was a young boy aged 21, who spoke english and was a wonderful person to speak to.
- The itinerary consists of a tuktuk (known as remorque) pick up from your hotel. They ask for your food preferences when you apply online, and hence, would only take you to places, where you would get your preferred food. To understand their cuisine, I opted for a non veg eat all, kind of food preference 🙂
- Yes, they eat Tarantulas. They love this because of it’s taste and have this as a snack. They also eat scorpions.
- If you want to eat where the locals eat, opt for the food tours. They take you around to well frequented restaurants / eating places where locals eat. They also ensure, hygiene is taken care of. I was taken to a couple of restaurants where, I was the only non local (foreigner) there.!
That’s my guide for the food tour – San. They normally conduct this in groups. Luckily, I was the only person that day, and got all the attention! I was picked up in a tuktuk, which was with us for the entire tour!
That’s Me. Happy, in anticipation of food….lots of it 🙂
I was initially taken to a local restaurant. It was jam packed, bustling with locals.
The first dish which arrived on the table, was mouth watering. It had duck eggs, rice noodles, pork and chicken. The salad was amazing in taste! The noodles was laced with chopped nuts and that added, a distinct taste to it.
Then came the fried spring rolls! They were crispy and had a different taste to it.
The spring rolls were to be dipped in this sauce and then devoured. The sauce was very different from what we have, and was topped with almonds.
That’s a happy Me 🙂
i was more than happy. The food was not at all spicy and that helped me 🙂
That’s the entire platter in front of me. We also had another plate of spring rolls, which were laced with veggies and were not fried.
I had a tough time with the chopsticks, but, could manage, to pose for a snap at last 🙂
This was taken by me, right outside the first restaurant where we ate. Notice, the tuktuk (remorque). It is a carriage, fixed on the rear seat of a moped. This is quite different from the tuktuks of Thailand. I guess, every place has it’s own touch!
This was the first restaurant where we ate. Food was tasty and hygienic.
After this, we headed downtown, for the second pitstop!
The second pitstop had a better look and feel. I could spot quite a few locals engrossed in their food and their chats. I saw a culture, where, people gather together outside, post their day’s work, in the evenings and chat and eat together! I saw this also at a night market which we had visited later!
This was the best corn soup of my life! It was so delicious! Angkor – the local beer, only added to it’s taste!
This was a snack made from corn and fish paste! Delicious!
It had to be dipped in this sauce. The green sauce was spicy!
I was also treated to some morning glory – stir fried with some chilli and some green veggies.
This was fried corn. The guide was referring to this as – Popcorn 🙂
On my way out, I noticed some snails, which were being grilled. It’s a local delicacy!
Our next stop was at a rice spirit place, named Sombai!
Rice spirit is very common in Cambodia and the locals have it all through the day. Sombai, had different flavours like orange / pepper / raisins etc infused in the rice wine.
Here, you can see the orange infused rice wine…!
Bottles with different flavours – Red chilli, Tea and orange, lemongrass, tamarind, white peeps and raisins etc…
I carried home a bottle. If possible, do carry back one.
Few more flavours!
A photo with the Sombai staff and my guide – San!
Here is our Tuktuk driver, happily posing, post dropping me at my hotel!
I had a wonderful experience. San, also took me to a night market. It had rained few minutes back and the entire market was full of fireflies. I didn’t spend much time there.
I was happy within. I had good food what the locals eat everyday.
As we were passing by the night market and heading towards our tuktuk, he proudly showed me towards a fruit juice stall. I could see a lady frantically managing orders behind the stall.
Couple of things that San said that day during our food trip, sort of summed up Cambodia and the spirit of the people there – ” That’s my elder sister. She puts up this stall everyday! We are four sisters and three brothers. I had to leave school because my parents are old. I work at Siemreaper because, they teach me english. They also teach me how to speak and behave with tourists. When I don’t have tours, I also work at other places. Yes, I have a girl friend. I have to stand on my own feet and then I can claim her!”
The next day, I was strolling in the evening, in a touristy place called Pub Street. I was walking and then I got approached by someone. I didn’t even look at the person’s face and snubbed him. I was approached by almost fifty people before that, all trying to sell me something! I was irritated. Then, I could hear a known voice – “Sir, you don’t recognise me. I was your guide yesterday.” I looked up and saw San – my food tour guide smiling at me.
He had a placard in his hand and I could make out, that, this was his second job. I felt sorry, for all my snubs to everyone down the Pub Street. They were all smiling faces, hiding their pain and struggle, trying to earn their livelihood, by honest means!
I patted on his back and moved on. I had no words which could tell him that he was a Hero, fighting his own battle!
With tears down my cheeks, I saluted San, from the bottom of my heart. I also saluted all the hard working Cambodian people. They have seen so much war and poverty. But, they never get bogged down! They are the true soldiers of Life teaching us the real value of Life!
Want to know which was my most favourite temple in Siem Reap? This one below…Keep reading my blog for more on this….!!