We booked a week-long trip in Siem Reap and didn’t regret it one bit. It was sweltering hot there, a couple of notches hotter than what I’m used to but there were lots of huge trees to block the sun. After exploring the Old Market, we walked out into the street and found a young vendor manning a flatbed cart with small sealed clams baking in the sun. Cooked just by the heat and seasoned with rock salt and chili, she’d ritually mix the shellfish using the sun as a giant oven.
With a strong affinity for shellfish, I bought a bag’s worth (one can) for the monetary equivalent of $0.50. The freshwater clams looked absolutely tasty and were seasoned with rock salt and red chili. Locals seemed to be experts at opening these guys up and watching them eat looked as simple as cracking open a bunch of peanuts. Boy were we wrong.
They were a bit of trouble to open at first but the locals didn’t stop teaching personal techniques until we figured it out. The vendor urged us to kind of pry the shells open with our teeth but it was kind of just ineffective because saliva just made them slippery. Eventually, we figured that the best way to open them up was to use the edge of a shell to pry them open.
When it’s finally open, you stick the bottom half of the shell in your mouth (to savor the salt and chili) while sucking on the clam meat. Taste-wise, it reminded me of oysters and the sea. It tasted a lot like a body of water, it was extremely juicy. Considering these were pretty much raw, I wonder if I could replicate this in Manila and not get sick.
The locals I talked to couldn’t seem to teach me how to say what this was so I told them to write it for me in Khmer. If you’re serious about trying this, I think you should print this out and show it to someone there. It’s seriously worth it.