We admit that tarantulas weren’t mentioned when we asked students what their favorite food was when traveling. But that doesn’t mean eating an arachnid isn’t a memorable or even a tasty experience. At the very least, it gives you a good travel story.
On a few of our programs, students get a chance to sample snacks you won’t normally find in the United States, like fried creepy crawlies. Here are a few of the unusual foods you may encounter while on the road:
“I will never forget trying crickets and actually enjoying them! They almost tasted like salted chips.”
– Alumna Abigail Evangelista
Fried Tarantulas and Crickets
In Cambodia, students in the Floating Village Service Expedition have a chance to try fried crickets and tarantulas while traveling in remote regions of the country. The students get the snack opportunity at a rest stop while enroute to the town of Battambang.
Cambodia Country Manager Pannha En says fried tarantulas are considered a delicacy. They are often rolled in sugar or garlic and eaten by the handful, sort of like potato chips.
Unfortunately their popularity has a sad history. Tarantulas became a common source of nutrition during the deadly reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.
At the time, Cambodians discovered the arachnids were easy to find in the countryside and ate them to survive. Tarantulas are a good source of protein, folic acid and zinc. Today vendors sell them on street corners throughout the country.
Fried crickets are also eaten in Cambodia and a number of other countries, ranging from Mexico to Thailand. Alumna Abigail Evangelista was happily surprised by how crickets tasted when she tried them during her Rustic Pathways program in Thailand in 2018.
“I will never forget trying crickets and actually enjoying them! They almost tasted like salted chips,” Abigail said.
Guinea Pig and Alpaca Meat
If you’re traveling to Peru and see cuy on the menu, that’s guinea pig. In this South American country, guinea pigs are not pets. They’re a delicacy that have been served since the days of the Incas.
Students get to try guinea pig – if they want – on the Sacred Valley Service program. They may also have a chance to sample alpaca meat while in the country. It’s mainly found in Cusco and is said to be somewhat similar in taste to buffalo.
Mackenzie Bernhardt, who traveled to Peru in 2022, said sampling unfamiliar foods was one of several things that she learned to love while in the country.
”I used to like hiking. Now I love hiking and want to do more. I never was a soccer person and now I love soccer. I didn’t previously try new foods and now I tried guinea pig… It’s time to go with the flow and live in the moment,” Mackenzie said.
Kava Root Drink
In Fiji, students dive into the moment when they join in a traditional welcoming ceremony that involves drinking kava. It’s made from the ground root of the kava shrub that’s said to have a unique taste.
One 2022 traveler, who we’ll keep nameless, said it tasted like dirt to her. But what’s much more important is the community aspect of the ritual, as Fiji Program Manager Leba Digitaki noted.
“During the ceremony, we will officially welcome students to the family – no one is a stranger,” Digitaki said.
We can’t say our students in our Hanoi to Ha Long program will necessarily eat a snake, but it’s certainly an option in Vietnam. A few miles from Hanoi’s Old Quarter there’s an entire village known for its snake restaurants.
Among the slithery creatures on the menu are bamboo, mountain and cobra snakes, with the cobra being the most expensive. In the restaurants, the snakes are killed in front of the patrons and then nearly all parts of the snake are used. Customers are even given the heart and the snake’s blood in a drink, if you’re brave enough to try it.
Adventurous diners can try silkworm pupa in parts of South Korea, where our new Seoul Searching: Modern Korea program is being held. The pupa is the lifecycle stage between the larva and the adult silkworm moth. It’s a popular street food called beondegi that’s sometimes described as being nutty in flavor.
The pupa is boiled or steamed and served in cups. Sometimes it’s also used in soups or is canned.
Cooked snails are a delicacy in France and are often served as an appetizer. Students traveling on our new program in France may be on the lookout for these gastropods.
Escargot is eaten in other countries, but the French are known for eating the highest volume of snails in the world, devouring millions of snails a year. One of the most classic dishes is Burgundy escargot, which is cooked with garlic butter and parsley.
France is also often listed as the best country in the world for food, so it’s hard to go wrong there. Still it’s fun to see how creative people get when trying to get nutrition and enjoy the eating experience at the same time.
Yes, there are lots of rice and beans in many countries – but they can be mouthwateringly magical too. For more details on what foods to expect in each nation, peruse our Rustic Pathways Country Books.
Mary is the Lead Editor at Rustic Pathways. She has been a writer and editor for nearly 20 years. Prior to covering student travel, Mary created content for the music education company J.W. Pepper & Son. She also was a writer and producer at CNN International and a communications director for a social service agency and a K-12 private school.