As soon as I read about the Bugs Café in Siem Reap, I knew that I had to try it. Touted as an “Insect Tapas and Cocktail Bar,” Bugs Cafe specializes in – you guessed it – insect dishes and delectable mixed drinks. Never one to pass on a culinary adventure, I made it a priority to have dinner there one night.
Note: The photos in this post are pretty atrocious, but in my defense, taking appetizing pictures of fried tarantulas in the dark is a tough ask.
We started out with one of their signature cocktails, Cambodian Fever, made with rum, sombai ginger chili, papaya juice, mango, lime, and cilantro. This drink was crazy spicy, but also nicely balanced with the sweetness of the mango and earthiness of the cilantro.
Now, onto the real reason we were there: the bugs. The menu is extensive, and has interesting preparations of grasshoppers, silkworms, bees, ants, crickets, tarantulas, and scorpions. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much trouble deciding what to order, mostly because I had never tried anything like this before. We finally decided to share one of the Discovery Platters, which comes with 2 Wild Spring Rolls, 1 Insect Skewer, 1 Mediterranean Feuillete with Ants, 1 Tarantula Donut, and 1 Cricket & Silkworm Wok.
First up was the Tarantula Donut. I liked this one because it looked exactly like a deep-fried tarantula. Taste wise, it was also one of my favorites. If you closed your eyes and didn’t think too much, it tasted like soft shell crab.
Next was the Wild Spring Roll, filled with the usual suspects: cabbage, carrot, and ants. Since it was fried to a crisp, the crunch of the ants blended right in. It tasted pretty much like a regular spring roll.
Third, we dined on Insect Skewers. Here, we had our choice between spiders, giant waterbugs, or grasshoppers. Playing it safe, we chose the grasshoppers. I didn’t care for the grasshoppers; I found them to be too crunchy and membraneous. Pieces of exoskeleton kept getting stuck between my teeth. The grilled peppers, onions, and tomatoes were tasty, though.
We took a breather from the hardcore stuff to enjoy the Mediterranean Feuillete. This was a puff pastry filled with a surprisingly good pesto and ants (local ants, to be exact, according to the menu). This dish was pretty benign, though I think it could have used a little more pesto. And possibly more ants? I couldn’t really taste them.
Finally, we shared the Cricket & Silkworm Wok. They had four different flavors to choose from for the wok: Hot, Coconut Curry, Green, and Mediterranean. They all sounded pretty good, but we went with Mediterranean (olive oil, pesto, parmesan cheese and cashews) to pair with our feuillete. This was about when I decided I was finished eating bugs for the night. The crickets, like the grasshoppers, didn’t have a pleasant texture and kept getting stuck in my teeth. The silkworms, by contrast, were soft and juicy. I kind of liked them, until Alex pointed out how they “popped” in your mouth. Thinking too much was my downfall and I had to put my fork to rest. The overall flavor was good; maybe I would have liked it better with different bugs.
I’m happy to have tried the Bugs Cafe. The menu was fascinating and everything was well prepared. I discovered, though, that I just don’t like bugs that much. I recommend giving it a try if you’re in Siem Reap – even if the bugs freak you out, they make a killer cocktail.
Getting there: Turn down the street between Park Hyatt and Sokimex gas station, then take the first street on the left leading to night market. Walk about 30m and it’s on the right hand side. Open daily 5:00 – 11:00 PM.