Student reveals how he got a taste for deep-fried spiders
DISCOVERING a deep-fried tarantula tastes just like chicken was just one of lessons for Maclean High school student Mali Matthews during his 10-day working stay in Cambodia.
Mali was part of a group of 14 Maclean High Students who flew to Siam Reap to work in the Balaing Commune Village to build a new classroom in Chaw Srei Vibol Ke Primary School as part of a sister-school initiative.
The group returned on Thursday.
Mali said that during the bus trip from Siem Reap there was a scheduled stop at a roadside stall where spiders were on the menu.
"They told us ahead of time we would be eating spiders. I was keen to try them," he said.
"There wasn't a lot of meat on them. There was a bit on the legs and the body. It tasted like chicken."
He said a number of the stalls at the markets were selling spiders and other bugs.
"On one side of the markets there were stalls selling fruit and vegetables and then on the other side they were selling crickets and other bugs," he said.
"I'm not sure if they were a delicacy or a snack, but the locals were eating lots of them."
It wasn't just the diet of the locals that opened opened the eyes of the students to the difference between life in rural Cambodia and rural Australia.
"It was a great lesson to be able to see what it's like to live without access to all the things you don't really need to live," he said.
"It was eye-opening. They're not cut off from the world. There are lots of mobile phones.
"But they don't have the connections we have and don't get the same stuff."
Mali said he would not like to trade places with them.
"I hate the heat," he said. "I'm loving it home now with it being cold.
"They eat a lot of rice all the time, which I don't think I could get used to."
Sleeping on the floor with a mosquito net to cover him and the squat toilets.
He said electricity was available only at certain times and not everyone had access to it.
But he said the villagers seemed to be happy
"They were really happy to see us come to help build their school house," Mali said.
"They were always smiling and happy and they were so generous."
They were doubly pleased because the Maclean students' fundraising efforts at home meant they would get a deluxe classroom instead of an earthen floor and tin-walled building.
"Because we were able to raise $6000 for it, they were able to afford brick walls and a concrete slab floor," he said.
Mali said it was likely he would be able to get back to the Balaing Commune to check up on the finished school.
"We didn't have the skills to finish off the building," he said. "Builders were going to come in to put the roof on.
"Mum and Dad said they were keen to go over there in a couple of years to see how the villagers use the building once it's finished.
He said it would be good to catch up with the local people.
"I made a couple of friends with the local kids," he said. "It will be great to see what they're doing once they get older."
Back home he would love to have his family try some deep-fried spiders, but he's having trouble tracking down the right species.
"Mum's a vegetarian, so I know she won't be in it. But I think Dad and my brothers will give it a go.
"All you need is tarantulas, some oil in a wok, a bit of spice maybe and you're right to go."