A last-minute stop on our jouney, Siem Reap and Angkor Wat impressed me as a tourism destination that really has its act together. Cambodia is a very poor country whose people too recently suffered brutal violence and torture by the Khmer Rouge.
In light of this, it seemed almost disrespectful to want to have a good time there and enjoy the Khmer culture and ruins. But one thing I believe is that tourism can lift a country up as well as give its people international visibility. Recent floods in Thailand were all over the news in the U.S. because so many people vacation there.
With this in mind, Eric and I headed out on our daily food hunt to “Pub Street.” Pub Street was obviously set up just for tourists, but doesn’t feel like a tourist ghetto in the same way as Khao San Road in Bangkok. Several friendly looking places offered “Khmer BBQ” so we decided to try it.
We ordered the BBQ and a flurry of activity commenced. A waiter brought a giant silver vessel to the table that looked a lot like a hubcap. The center had several perforated tiers rising up over a small flame; the bottom was a deep ring.
Waiters came with several dishes and pointed: “Crocodile … snake … beef … frog’s legs.” A few dishes of vegetables and eggs were also set out. Our waiter then began to build a soup in the ring with vegetables, hot water, a lightly beaten egg and frog’s legs. Next, the meats — all cut into thin strips about two inches long — were stuck onto the tiers.
The waiter left us to watch our meat sizzle. It quickly set in that we had no idea the safe cooking time for crocodile over sterno. I poked at the pieces and turned them: not done. The waiter came to our rescue pulling frog’s legs out of the soup and throwing them on the grill, then ladling the soup and pulling off some snake.
I have a feeling this setup is idiot-proof. I just kept peeling meats off the cooker and chewing them down. Everything was cooked perfectly. Frog’s legs were delicious. Crocodile had a nice flavor. Snake was very chewy and not the favorite. The egg-flower-frog soup was slightly sweet and delicious. We washed it down with some Angkor beers.