Cambodian delicacies and cricket farmers

Part 2 of our trip to Asia went to Cambodia, where we met with DanChurchAid to visit cricket farmers.

Here at team Wholi our vision is to create a more sustainable and globally responsible food culture. Working with cricket farmers in developing countries is something that we have been dreaming about from the beginning and now, one year later, we have finally got the chance, thanks to SAS Scholarship. 

Crickets and other insects have for centuries been a local delicacy in Cambodia and many other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. However, in some of these countries eating insects is in decline either due to cultural reasons (the growing upper-middle class look down at eating insects) or because of pesticide use and climate change. 

The aim of our work is to support the culture of eating insects by working with insect farmers. In that way we are able to source our main ingredient (insect flour) from the tropics and support local smallholder farmers. This means we could make a social impact and get a hold of the most tasty and delicious cricket species around the world. 

Traditional Kmer cuisine 

In Cambodia edible insects have been on the menu for centuries. The most popular insects eaten are crickets, silkworms, giant water bugs and tarantulas. We had the pleasure of tasting all of these wonders – with mixed feelings. 

The first night we stayed in Phnom Penh we went to a restaurant nearby called Romdeng. Here we had the pleasure of ordering creepy crawly tarantulas with black pepper lime sauce. We have tried eating a lot of different bugs the last couple of years, but never tarantulas. And even for insectivores like us, this was a challenge.

On the other hand, spiders are technically not an insect, so we could have been excused. But when in Cambodia, this is something you have to try. Picking up the giant spider from the dinner plate was scary at first, but when we had munched into the first leg – we were sold! They have a wonderful taste of sesame chicken with an explosion of umami flavour. So we definitely recommend stopping by Romdeng, if you are ever in Phnom Penh.

The next day we had the pleasure of visiting a very inspiring young man named Phearum. Phearum is a cricket farmer and the most amazing thing is, that Phearum is a self-taught cricket farmer. He learned by watching YouTube videos of cricket farming and has now, 9 year later, perfected the practice. There are several farmers like Phearum and in just 5 weeks, each farmer can produce up to 700 kg crickets at once. The potential for increasing the local production of crickets for the local market and the foreign market is definitely there.

Fortunately for us, the farmed crickets tasted amazing. The crunchy crickets were fried with lemongrass, garlic and chili and was the perfect nutty and savory snack throughout our trip in Cambodia. The crickets were to be found on every corner and market and loved by the Cambodians.

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