You Are What You Eat

It’s like a fight to the death among the street restaurants. I came here with Jenna on my first day in Siem Reap but failed completely when I tried to come back on my own. I came so close only to misjudge the distance, ending up at the wrong restaurant. Normally it wouldn’t be a big deal, a meal is a meal, except I am trying to build relationships here, which becomes significantly easier when you patronize the same places.

Tonight I was more determined. Despite the rain (I thought rainy season was over…) I buttoned down the hatches on my coat and braved slick city streets. I cycled up to where I thought the original restaurant was located and immediately women waving menus materialized around me, shouting and pulling me in different directions. I held my ground stating, “I’m looking for Phai San!”

Like magic San (her husband’s name is Phai, hence Phai San) appeared yelling, “Here!” and ushered me to a table. Much to my relief, she remembered me, “Jenna’s friend!”

Yes, we’re getting somewhere.

As I learned Monday, building relationships is important, especially among food establishments. We were all headed towards our usual lunch spot in the market, the place with the pink chairs, but changed our minds after noticing PEPY NGO’s new batch of students tucking into their meal on the other side of the market.

Finishing a round of introductions we found seats at a table and were quickly informed we would eat what had already been prepared. Plate after plate of rice, veggies, and fried eggs were placed alongside bowls of the day’s soup. Digging into our food, distracted by the conversation we almost missed Sreyeang scoop a helping of food off her plate.

“Wait… What did you find in your food?” We all wanted to know.

After some coaxing, we eventually learned the soup du jour included a little something extra: worm.

I told you my days of catered dignitary luncheons were over…

We knew it wasn’t an intentional ingredient, but we carefully inspected our plates nonetheless and haven’t ventured back since.

I should add insects are really a part of life here. Even at the fancy-schmancy gala dinner we all placed napkins over our beverages and avoided the gnat-peppered butter pats. And the mosquitoes must have missed the memo the Minister of Tourism was going to be there.

Not the most delightful dining companions.
Not the most delightful dining companions.

Even as I wrote this post I was flicking an assortment of flying critters out of my curry. They just sort of stumble in, no big deal. I am a bit perplexed as to how the worm managed its way into our soup…

A brief shout-out while I’m on the topic of food. In a few short days, a few of our friends and fellow PEPY staff are opening a restaurant in town called Brown Rice. Yesterday Jenna and I popped by to check it out and can assure you it will be fabulous. Catering towards the nearby university students the prices will be affordable, food delicious, plus free wifi and air conditioning.  So if you happen to pass through Siem Reap, definitely check it out.

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