There is nothing like a good satay; delicious meats placed on bamboo skewers and grilled over charcoal. Until recently my satay experience had been limited to small pieces of beef, chicken or maybe lamb deliciously seasoned and served as an appetizer in Thai or Middle Eastern restaurants. Similarly, I have tried Japanese yakitori, Shish kebab and numerous other meats served on sticks. When I was a kid we even had an attachment for the grill that would rotate meat and vegetables that were placed on metal skewers and cooked on a gas grill. This was all great but definitely weak preparation for local Cambodian street food on Road 60, just outside Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Cambodian Street Food Was a Challenge I Asked For
I had asked Pin Vannak, friend and tour guide extraordinaire to show me some serious Cambodian street food. He took me to a place a few miles outside of town near the entrance of Angkor Wat where locals like to gather in the evening. I was the only “barang” (a non-derogatory Khmer term that roughly means long-nosed foreigner) in sight. Vendors were selling housewares, clothing and just about anything else you would want along the road from stalls lit only by fluorescent bulbs powered by car batteries. There was a go-kart track and even a small carnival nearby but what interested me most was the improvised restaurants and food stalls. It was hard to see things in the fading sunlight and drizzle but the aroma was intoxicating.
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We wandered around for a few minutes and Vannak showed me several stalls selling various items but what looked most interesting and challenged me most was the chicken offal satay. I had to try them. Take a skewer and place chicken intestine, heart, liver, and lungs on it then, just to make things interesting, top it off with an immature chicken ovum. Marinate in, what seemed to be, fish sauce then grill over a charcoal fire and there you have it. It took a few seconds to accept what it was I was about to eat. I mean, in low light the “meat” looked ordinary enough but there was that unlaid chicken egg, kind of just staring at me.
The pointy heart was on the pointy end of the stick so I tried it first. A little tough but delicious! Then came the lungs; the texture was little spongy and it tasted generally like the salty marinade. The intestines were a little chewy, almost like tiny calamari, but again tasted like fish sauce. The liver had a nice soft texture and a familiar taste. It was all good, very good in fact, so far but now it was time for the egg. It was about the size of a ping-pong ball, white and perfectly round. I touched it and it felt like a hardboiled egg so I decided to take a bite. Not bad actually. It tasted mostly like-well, egg. It was a Cambodian delicatessen variety pack on a stick. By my western standards it was a little strange but overall I really liked it and would try it again. This type of Cambodian street food is not even something that Cambodians eat every day. If given the opportunity I would encourage you to try it but wouldn’t give you a hard time for passing.