Rule One: Don’t eat sashimi in the desert

Squid and Prawns at Psar Thmei

If I was writing a rulebook on Third World roadside eating, at the top of my list would be “Don’t eat seafood unless you can see the water from whence it came”, which I could probably shorten to something snappier and memorable like “Don’t eat sashimi in the desert”. Despite my wariness towards Third World streetside seafood, when I spot a vendor who is keeping their raw produce on ice, it pays to give them the benefit of the doubt and break a few cardinal food rules. This mom-and-pop kraken charring duo were keeping their squid-on-a-stick iced in a plastic bucket at the entrance to Phnom Penh’s Central Market.

Squid and Prawns at Psar Thmei

Compared to the diminutive beachside-in-Sihanoukville variety, this squid looked like it would play a starring role in the delirious undersea nightmares of Captain Nemo. Served charred, sliced into bite-sized pieces and topped with a spoonful of spring onions and fish sauce.

Squid and Prawns at Psar Thmei

Barbecued prawns (bawngkia aing) are also on the largish side, basted with the same sauce and onion mix. Sides of fresh but sickly sweet homemade chilli sauce, salt/pepper/lime juice dipping sauce, and a green tomato, chee krassang and cucumber salad were complementary. At 32000 riel (US$8(!)) for two plates of giant squid and a plate of prawns, these snacks are premium priced but top hole.

Location: The main eastern entrance of Central Market, Phnom Penh, after 2pm. Central Market (Psar Thmei) has a changeover period at about 2pm when the “official” food vendors who dwell near the northeastern wing in tiled concrete booths shut up shop completely, and a few makeshift stands open at the main eastern entrance to the market, serving late afternoon/dinner snacks.

2 thoughts on “Rule One: Don’t eat sashimi in the desert”

  1. I’d risk it.

    In case your tummy starts to rumble with disagreement, there is one rather dingy public restroom hidden in the labyrinthine corridors of the Psar Thmei. I wonder if it’s the only one?

  2. Beautiful presentation on the squid — I haven’t seen anything quite like this in Viet Nam, and I have eaten a lot of squid here. Shrimp looks great, too. I break the rule when I see that the vendor has put some extra care in how he/she presents the food. The surroundings look pretty clean, too.
    — Mel

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