There's nothing like a bit of genocide to work up an appetite (or it could just be that we'd not eaten for about 8 hours) so after visiting the killing cave just south of Battambang we went for a wander in search of something to nibble on while we waited for 5pm and the arrival of the bats. Even though it's a mini tourist destination the area was fantastically rural, surrounded by palm tree studded rice paddies (Battambang is known as the rice basket of Cambodia) and the roads only managing potholed mud status. In such surroundings I wasn't expecting much but we ended up with three delicacies, two I'd seen before but not got around to eating and one entirely new one.
The first we sampled was fermented pork. I'm not sure how they ferment it but however they do it leaves you with a pink paste, wrapped in banana leaf, that doesn't need to be fridged. We'd had it before in Vietnam where it's a common snack with beer, we'd never had it with these accompaniments though. Here the modus operandi was to take a crisp white cabbage leaf then add some herbs (holy basil amongst others), some cold rice vermicelli and a piece of the pork, this is then rolled up and dipped in fish sauce and chili. It's a heavy hitter in both taste and texture. Crisp lettuce gives way to soft vermicelli and the slightly rubbery pork. The strong raw cabbage taste competes with the herbs and sour pork, not to mention fish sauce and chili. It's by no means delicate but it works really well.
The second was barbecued eggs. I'd seen these all over Thailand and Cambodia and had assumed they hardboiled eggs and then skewered them, giving some barbecue time to add smokiness. They turned out to be far more complex. The eggs have a small hole in them and are then shaken out and the egg beaten with salt, sugar, black pepper and MSG (we had a chat with our guide about them) before being poured back into the shell and steamed till set. These are then threaded onto skewers and given the aforementioned barbecuing. What you're left with is a slightly smokey egg custards that you scoop out and dip into chili.
The final part of the trilogy was a new one to us and even as we saw it sat there we weren't sure what we were getting. It was something battered - obviously, but what was in the batter? Much to our surprise the batter contained slices of baguette, the batter itself being spiced in nature. The meal was completed with sweet, sticky chili sauce. It was as good as fried things in batter dipped in chili sauce usually are.
Hunger sated we returned to our mopeds and guides just in time to get a beer in before the bats arrived, not that we needed to hurry because after 20 minutes the bats were still leaving as thick and fast as they had done at the start and we'd told they'd carry on for another 40 minutes at the same rate.