Hong Sreymom: Insect seller Two years ago Hong Sreymom, 17, joined the family business: purchasing, preparing and selling crickets, beetles and other creatures from a cart alongside more than 20 others near the Koh Pich Bridge. Vandy Muong and Audrey Wilson caught up with her this week to sample some of her fare and get the lowdown on some of Phnom Penh’s most popular street grubs
Silkworms (8,000 riel a can)
People like to eat insects the most during the rainy season. I make a lot of profit during that time because people want to eat hot things like fried bugs. In the dry season they don’t eat it as much. I could finish selling early during the rainy season and make a big profit. During the rainy season the insects have more meat inside. Silkworms have a lot of meat. We also fry them, but they don’t need much oil. They are a little bit more expensive than the rest of the insects because they’re difficult to find, so farmers in the provinces grow them to harvest like they would for their silk.
Tiny frogs (80,000 riel per kilogram)
My customers are mostly Cambodian people, but sometimes foreigners come to look at my place and take pictures. They never buy things to try. They like to look at these tiny frogs. We fry them for 30 minutes and then they’re ready. Most customers buy them not for snacking, but to take home and cook with vegetables. They are a little more expensive. It’s not a hard job to earn money – my family can survive from this business. I quit school two years ago. Besides selling insects and things, I don’t know what I could do in the future.
Beetles (7,000 riel a can)
Each bug cooks very differently, and beetles are the hardest because they take the longest to fry – one hour. They are the least popular among the insects because some people don’t like the smell of the female beetle – it smells like urine – and because they don’t have any meat. The taste is much sweeter than the others. Me, I like eating beetles, but sometimes I get sick of it. I eat it every day if we don’t sell it all.
Crickets, small or large (4,000 riel a can)
Crickets are the most popular with customers. I sell 10 kilograms a day. We sell both natural and “unnatural” crickets. Some of them are fed and grown in a coconut shell, but the “natural” cricket comes from the rice field. People always come to my place to buy crickets and they usually eat them all. I know that they eat it with chilli sauce and rice sometimes, but they mostly eat it as a snack. We cook them for exactly 30 minutes with lots of oil to maintain its original flavour.
Snake-on-a-stick (1,000 riel each)
Early in the morning, I wake up and go to a wholesaler in Chbar Ampov district. I never ask where they are from – I just know they come from a different province. For seasoning, we use sugar, salt, garlic and chilli. Once we’ve seasoned the snakes, we wrap them around a wooden stick, dry them in the sun and fry for 20 minutes. I sell from five to 10 kilograms of these – it depends on the day. There is no poison in this type of snake – we know that!