I remember noticing how much darker the people were. How the roads were a little less paved and the houses a little shabbier. I was on the bus from Vietnam to Cambodia. Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh. It was Tet 2014. I was with three of my favorite women, we were all ESL teachers in Vietnam, we were on holiday. I had no idea I was about to fall in love with yet another country.
There were two of them. Ok. Who’s the sacrificial lamb? I remember biting into the slightly leathery skin that almost popped as my teeth pierced through. No sacrifice was needed. These frogs were incredible. As Asian cuisines seem to be able to accomplish time and time again without fail, they were exploding with flavor. Our discerning palates surmised that the Cambodian recipes for frogs meant that these guys had been emptied, the contents mixed with curry like spices, cooked, restuffed, skewered, and grilled again. We shared the two skewered frogs between the four of us and our oh so kind driver and only wished we had more.
But, not to worry, two frogs can only be appetizers to further consumption. Upon arriving back we, thanked, tipped and bid farewell to our gracious tuk tuk man, we began to wander in search of where to eat in Phnom Penh. Eventually we came upon street food vendors at the corner of Wat Botum Park. Steamed corn. Bak Lahong, a spicy papaya salad which is made with shredded, unripe papaya, lots of chili peppers, and other shredded veggies. A lo mein like dish with a fried egg on top which is about a million times better than any lo mein you’ve ever had. Cambodain green mango salad. Every bite of every dish was so heavenly delicious, flavorful, and rich. It brings tears to my eyes as those exquisite tastes dangle themselves just out of reach of my taste buds as I sit here and try to remember it all.
If you go to South East Asia, or, like, anywhere, and you don’t eat the street food, you’re committing a mortal sin. If someone told you to avoid it, whoever they are, get them out of your life.
Eat. Enjoy. Repeat.
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