markets of the world…
iguanas, brains, & tarantulas, oh my!

iguana and avocados in Laos

I love a good farmer’s market. I frequent them weekly looking to discover my next favorite culinary gem. As much as I enjoy treasure hunts at the Los Angeles markets, it’s the markets of the world that intrigue me. Today’s blog is a visual journey to far away places with strange sounding names… not to mention food you probably wouldn’t consider eating!
Warning: some of the pictures are graphic – please don’t view this before eating unless you are on a diet.

woman carrying fish in luang prabang, laos


Our first adventure starts at the morning market in Luang Prabang, Laos. This city is a fascinating mishmash of oriental wooden dwellings with random kisses of European architecture thrown in. All reminiscent of a time when Laos was part of the French colony of Indochine. The royal capital of Laos resided here until the communist takeover in 1975.

Regardless of this country’s troubled past, beauty abounds. The adventurer who dares to journey the distance to the “land of a million elephants” will be richly rewarded.  Oddities of eclectic varieties were the specialty of the day, with not an elephant in sight. Our supper came from this bizarre bazaar… and that alone was too much information for me!”

”fish & bugs” or maybe you prefer “flies with your fish”
kind of gives a new meaning to fly fishin’

luang prabang, laos market-brains-feet

“pig’s trotters & brains… global trends in anti-aging food”

luang prabang, laos - little girl at the market

“never too young or old to sell your goods”

map indochina - Phnom Penh highlighted

Next stop: Skuon, a small Cambodian village north of Phnom Penh.

The rural area is sometimes called “spiderville” because of its street vendors selling heaping trays of whole arachnids. A palm-sized species of black tarantula known as “a-ping” is a well-known culinary specialty.

And how does one prepare such a delicacy? Fried with garlic, sugar, salt and other spices until their legs are crispy, silly!

cambodian tarantulas

In case your mother never taught you, this is how one eats a tarantula.

How to eat a tarantula in Cambodia

* Pick one whose body parts are still intact – dismembered units could be from last week’s production.

* Smell tarantula for freshness – if it smells rancid, it is.

* Drop whole tarantula quickly into your mouth before the brain has a chance to trigger its gag response. Or, do as my Mother does… take small bites while analyzing why you’re eating a tarantula.

cambodia bugs & birds

If tarantulas’ aren’t your style there are plenty of other tasty choices.

cambodia birds at market

We weren’t as adventuresome to taste the local duck delicacies… this time.
No trip is complete without the opportunity to give back in some small way. We had the pleasure to help a local Cambodian school with their English program, as well as participating the morning ritual of giving sticky rice the monks in Laos.

Giving alms in Laos

Even though I got deathly ill at the end of this trip (can’t imagine why), I would do it again. I have learned that while my stomach doesn’t always agree with other cultures, I can accept and appreciate them. Their lifestyles and customs are fascinating to me. I hope they are for you as well.

I have more market pictures and stories to tell, but I will save them for other blog entres. Look forward to experiencing Peru, India & Russia on the next encounter of a clash of culinary cultures.

Fish Massage in Bangkok on you tubeI leave you with a video that I shot
at the local night market in Bangkok.
My mother and I are enjoying a
screamin’ good fish massage.

I wonder why we don’t have
fish massages in California?
….and then, she paused for thought.

I entered the top photo in Junglefrog Cooking On Location Photo Challenge.
Click here to check out Junglefrog Cooking’s great blog site.
P.S. I won the contest. Click here for results.

About Cathy Arkle

Cathy Arkle is a food blogger, culinary explorer, graphic artist, and cooking class junkie. Her inspirations come from her travels across the globe (50 countries) in the last 20+ years partaking in various ethnic cuisines while working as a graphic artist for major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX & ESPN). She has collected a few Emmys in the field of graphic design for sports & entertainment. Cathy is also a graduate of the Pro Chef courses at The New School of Cooking in Culver City, CA

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13 Responses to markets of the world…
iguanas, brains, & tarantulas, oh my!

  1. junglefrog April 4, 2013 at 6:19 am #

    Ooo what a gorgeous photos and what a fun find to see that you actually went to the same places that I did… I remember that market in Luang Prabang vividly! And ofcourse the spider village… I only ate one leg.. which was ok.. 😉 Love the shot you send in of the woman with the fresh fish (and you might want to check my blog a bit later today for the results.. 😉

    • cathyarkle April 7, 2013 at 9:44 am #

      Thanks Simone! Laos was such a beautiful and fascinating place. I love your blog and your photos as well.

  2. El Oso con Botas April 4, 2013 at 6:41 am #

    Congratulations, it is a beautiful shot 😉

    • cathyarkle April 7, 2013 at 9:46 am #

      Thank you for stopping by! Laos is such a fabulous country and great tourist destination.

  3. Nusrat Azim April 22, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    Congrats ! Your picture truly deserves to win 🙂

  4. Lentil Breakdown March 5, 2017 at 5:15 pm #

    Wow!!! Tarantulas! I wanted to eat grasshoppers in Mexico but I was worried about the germs from the street vendors, not the grasshoppers. 🙂

    • Cathy Arkle April 6, 2017 at 5:54 pm #

      LOL I felt the same way about snail soup in Morocco.


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