Jaillan Yehia

Where To Have (And To Hold) Tarantulas In Phnom Penh – Romdeng Restaurant

Written by Jaillan Yehia

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Holding a live Tarantula at Romdeng

Holding a live Tarantula at Romdeng

I arrive at Romdeng restaurant ten minutes late as is my wont, but on this occasion I can’t blame the Northern Line.

Rushing through the streets of Phnom Penh on foot has left me a lot more sweaty than my usual subterranean dashes to London restaurants and I’ve never found my dining companion to have taken the liberty of ordering a round of deep fried tarantulas while they’re waiting for me in Soho…

I’m eating at one of two Phnom Penh branches of Cambodia’s Tree restaurants (it stands for Training Restaurants for Employment and Entrepreneurship) a  group of socially responsible eateries that train up under-privileged Cambodian youngsters at outposts around the country.

By the time I reach Phnom Penh I’ve already enjoyed a Cambodian tapas-style feast, served to me by the sweetest trainee waitress you can imagine at Marum, the Siem Reap version. I’ve also binged on Sandan’s yummy seafood and tangy daiquiris while surfing their fast wifi during  one of Sihanoukville frequent blackouts.

Deep fried tarantulas

On I’m A Celebrity you wouldn’t get the nice plate now would you?

Now, enjoying an alfresco evening dining on the sophisticated terrace in a quiet Phnom Penh street, it’s easy to forget that the staff here, as in the other branches, may have been on an unimaginable journey to get to your table.

One of the staff who does come to my table has something rather surprising in his hand. As well as being able to enjoy the crunchy, meaty delicacy of deep fried tarantulas on your plate at Romdeng, those who don’t wish to go all I’m A Celeb and ingest the creatures can hold a live one instead, which is what I opt to do – because  you might be able to cobble together a tumblr of me looking at interesting things, doing crazy things and holding all sorts of things, but eating weird things, not so much.


And the award for the most unusual thing I’ve held in my hands this year goes to…

Turns out the resident pet spider is surprisingly soft, furry and actually quite docile and strokable, so I’m in no particular hurry to give it back.

But when my beautifully prepared king prawns and perfectly blended jackfruit and lime daiquiri arrives I find a far better use for my hands than holding a dangerous arachnid, and soon enough I’m onto dessert, which at under $5 takes my mind off the plate of hairy legged insects that were served up at the start of the meal.

Look, there’s a whole section for veggies and non-spider eaters too.

Any money I’ve saved is swiftly dispatched in the on-site shop though where all profits go to the charity, so you can stock up on spider-inspired products and souvenirs with a clear conscience – if you really want a spider-themed make-up bag that is.

Romdeng Restaurant

#74 Street 174, Phnom Penh
T +855 (0) 92 219 565
E [email protected] 


Open Monday to Saturday from 11am to 9pm. Closed Wednesday and Friday 1pm to 5pm (student training).

SavoirThere was a guest of Frangipani Royal Palace Hotel in Phnom Penh

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