Eating Crickets

Tasty!

What we say: 3.5 stars

Now that Angelina Jolie has revealed that her Cambodian-born son is a huge fan of eating crickets, you may be considering trying the popular snack as well. If little Maddox Jolie-Pitt likes them, who wouldn’t? This is a kid with good taste — between the faux-hawk and having his own Battambang-based NGO since the tender age of two, Maddox is one to watch. So will crickets be the next big Western snack food?

Nom nom! Or is that nyam nyam?

“When I first gave it to them … I wanted them not to be turned off by something that was of their culture. They ate them like Doritos, and they wouldn’t stop,” Jolie says of her sons Maddox and Vietnam-born Pax. “They brought to-go boxes home and I had to actually ban the cricket eating at a certain point because I was afraid they were going to get sick from too many.”

I’m known for eating. I love it. And I’m willing to eat a lot of things — offal, blood, fast food. I’m not picky. But I’m not a “gross-out” eater. Meaning, I don’t eat things that don’t appeal to me just to prove how hardcore I am. And bugs have never been able to entice me before. In fact, I find them quite unappealing — they’re all legs and wings and no meat and are constantly harassing me in my flat when I’m trying to work. But one day my friend Sopheap went to go get some fried crickets for the winners of a ping pong tournament we were involved in, and I expressed an interest in seeing them. In seeing them, not eating them.

Sopheap was delighted that I was yet again showing an interest in his culture, and took great enjoyment in eating a bunch of enormous crickets in front of me to show me how delicious they were. He offered me some, and I politely declined. Thinking I was just being ladylike, he bought me a bag of more petite crickets to take home with me. “Share with your friends,” he said. I tried to shape my grimace into a smile and delicately held the bag between two fingers as I made my way home.

Tastes just like popcorn!

I put the crickets in a bowl and sat them on my coffee table and stared at them. I did a pro and con list in my head. I really didn’t want to eat these things. But my friend had bought them for me, and the few thousand riel he had spent on them was a lot of money to him. So it would be rude not to. And all of my Khmer friends think crickets are delicious, so who am I to say that they’re wrong without trying a single one? I Googled “What do crickets taste like” and when the results told me “Popcorn” I decided to go for it.

I jammed a couple of crickets in my mouth and started to chew, saying “popcorn, popcorn, popcorn” over and over to myself in my head. And they did taste like popcorn, with a hint of chillies and green onion. And just like popcorn, they get stuck in your teeth. As I gagged and tried to use my tongue to pull cricket antennae out of my molars I realised that I am just not culturally-sensitive, adventurous or sopheap (that’s polite in Khmer) enough to eat bugs. Just because Andrew Zimmerman can do it on Bizarre Foods doesn’t mean that I want to.

But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try them for yourself. Fried crickets brought in from farms across the country can be found at street food stalls all over Phnom Penh for around 3,500 to 4,000 riel per can-sized serving (half cans are also available). After all, millions of Cambodians and Maddox and Pax Jolie-Pitt can’t be wrong, can they? And even Angelina likes them. “They’re good,” she said in an interview recently. “They’re like a potato chip.”

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