Food inspired by the Khmer Rouge

Food inspired by the Khmer Rouge

When famine, or food insecurity hot a country people go to desperate measures. This evidences itself by people not only eating things they would not usually eat, but also innovating with cuisine.

Famine and indeed control over the food supply was a key element of the Democratic Kampuchea state under the rule of Angkar. This let to a number of survival based things being eaten, many of which live on today as food inspired by the Khmer Rouge.

Food inspired by the Khmer Rouge – Eating bugs

While Cambodia is far from the only country to eat bugs, nowadays it is not a necessity, or a quirk, it is something that is plentiful and extremely popular.

During the time of the Khmer Rouge people would be punished for eating anything they were not permitted, with many executed if caught. This made bugs and the easy protein that they bring a popular source of nourishment.

Nowadays bugs such as crickets roaches and all other manor of insects are sold in markets throughout the country, with the site of women with baskets on their head being very memorable. In contemporary times spice is added with you often eating them as a beer snack, much like chips.

Credit to owner photo

Food inspired by the Khmer Rouge – Tarantula

Much like th aforementioned bugs the tarantula was relatively easy to catch and was a great source of protein. Nowadays you find it predominately in Phnom Penh with one last next to the Royal Palace frying them up.

Can also be found wherever there is good street food such as Siem Reap, or Battambang. The taste is pretty unique and nowhere near as bad as it sounds, with many saying the belly tastes of egg yoke – something I am not so sure about.

Food simpered by the Khmer Rouge – Frogs

Not completely a food inspired by the Khmer Rouge as frogs have been eaten by the Khmer and French for generations. One particular frog that gained popularity during Khmer Rouge times though was the easily caught tiny river frog.

This was another easy to catch and eat dish which is still eaten today. Nowadays it is deep fried to such a degree it is devoid of flavor snd is more like a chip. Not to be confused with the frog that is stuffed with pork.

Food inspired by the Khmer Rouge – Congee/Rice porridge

Another food that clearly existed before the time of the Khmer Rouge, but to many was the only food that they were fed during the time of Democratic Kampuchea.

During this period the water would increase while the rice would decease as the famine got worse. Despite these memories rice porridge has had an almost resurgence of sorts with there being restaurants in almost every town that specialize in the dish.

Dogs during the time of the Khmer Rouge

Dogs were eaten before the time of the Khmer Rouge, bit famine made any taboo against eating them completely disappear. Said taboo as come back in light of criticism from foreigners, but the reality is you can still get dog everywhere.

This was evidenced a few years ago when some foreigners posted about trying dog in Siem Reap inly for it to be made illegal.

Despite this the dish is still extremely popular in rural areas and it us not uncommon for pets to go missing.

And while the time of the Khmer Rouge was of course terrible, it was another factor, alongside the cuisines of its neighbors that have helped contribute in making Khmer cuisine so unique.