INTERVIEW OF DAVY – OWNER @ BUGS CAFE
Hi Davy! You are the owner of Bugs Cafe Restaurant, located in Siem Reap city center (next to the Night Market). This restaurant is based on the following principle: insects are a healthy food choice, and compatible with high-quality cooking. Let’s get deeper into the topic!
Artisans Angkor: When did you decide to open the restaurant, and how did you come up with the idea?
Davy: It was my cousin’s idea, Marjolaine. In 2013, when we first talked about this project, she had been already living in Cambodia for 2 years. I wanted to discover a new country and settling down in Cambodia seemed like the right plan. She came up with the insects’ idea, because at that time she was running a hotel where many customers used to ask “Where could we try insects?” As the only answer to that question was ‘’in the streets / local markets’’, she started to wonder: “Why not cooking insects in a whole different way?”
AA: What bugs are displayed in the menu? Can you tell us a bit more about their characteristics?
Davy: We offer crickets, scorpions, grasshoppers, ants, bees, silkworms, spiders and more (we also have snake and crocodile)! Thanks to the talent and creativity of our Chef - Mr. Seiha Soeun - all the insects are combined with high-quality Khmer and western products & seasonings, and cooked with care and finesse. They are all rich in proteins, calcium, omega 3, iron, magnesium and vitamins, very energetic and healthy!
In Cambodia, there are a few insect farms compared to Thailand, which means that almost all our insects come from the wild (except for silkworms, as silkworm farming is popular in Cambodia).
AA: How are they cooked?
Davy: In many different ways! We can serve them grilled, fried… but also use them to make cakes, burgers, salads, soups, and even desserts! In those cases, we simply use the insects as a regular ingredient.
AA: Which bug do you prefer/would recommend first?
Davy: I love the Tarantula; it’s by far my favorite one. It’s probably the scariest one, but it appears to be the most popular among customers afterwards!
AA: Where do they come from? Have you tried hunting them yourself?
Davy: Scorpions and spiders come from rocky forests, and crickets from rice fields.
I’ve been accompanying hunters in the countryside many times. By the way, we also organize hunting tours in the countryside for the most curious customers.
AA: Can you tell us more about the origins of insect-eating in Cambodia? And about their consumption today?
Davy: To be honest not much, because insect-eating was born centuries ago in others countries, such as Thailand or Laos. Obviously, it’s something people had when they didn’t have much to eat. This tradition had almost disappeared, but it came back in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge Regime, when people were starving and had to find means of survival. Today, it’s still part of locals’ regular menu, but especially on countryside and poor areas.
AA: What are the main benefits of insects for health? Are they better than meat?
Davy: The main benefit of insect-eating is the extremely rich amount of above-mentioned nutrients it brings to your body, for a much lower environmental impact that traditional meat. Their low amount of fat compared to meat is significant as well. In western countries, where we are used to overeating meat, many people end up suffering from heart diseases, diabetes and clogged arteries. Eating insects as your main source of proteins lower these risks.
AA: Do you think Bugs consumption can expand and be popularized in western countries, in the near future?
Davy: It depends on the way they are cooked. Most of time, when western people see non-processed insects, they try them for fun, but never eat them again.
However if you’re talking about processed (transformed) insects, yes, I really think they can have a future in western countries.
AA: Do you provide a supervision/accompaniment for clients who try bugs for the first time? Do you also have ‘’regular’’ food for the most reluctant ones?
Davy: When clients want to try insects, I always help them choose a recipe, and I stay a bit when the food comes to give additional details and indications. For most people, it’s their very first time eating insects; that’s why it’s really important to explain how it has been cooked, where they come from, how to eat them…
And we do have regular food as well, no worries (laughs)!
AA: A few more words?
Davy: What I would like to underline here is that we buy all the insects from local farmers, living and working in rural areas. They are very poor, and to them, this activity represents a new source of revenue.
We only work with Khmer people. The restaurant’s staff is also Cambodian, and I want them not only to serve clients, but especially to become self-reliant, and to gain valuable insights in (how) business management. It’s my small contribution to the country, and it means the world to me.
Interview conducted by Artisans Angkor in October 2017
Photos credits: © Bugs Café, Rémi Abad, Régis Binard.