Phnom Penh, Cambodia with Mongkol

By: leelefever on July 6, 2006 - 1:50am

Before we left Seattle, I had a call with a fellow Blogger named Beth Kanter who has strong ties with Cambodia. Beth has been a wonderful contact and hooked us up with a young Cambodian guy and blogger named Mongkol who is moving to the US in a month on a Fulbright scholarship and attending Boston College. Yesterday Mongkol was our gracious tour guide to Phnom Penh.

For those that may have seen what I said on a local news story, it was that guidebooks are great, but we’d prefer to meet locals who can give us another perspective on a city and our day with Mongkol did just that.  He said “So, do you want to be with the other barangs (foreigners), or go where Cambodians eat?” We left town to “eat boiled corn”.

After about 30 minutes of driving we arrived at a strip of restaurants right on the edge of a marsh.  This was no regular restaurant.  The kitchen was on the land, but the tables (sitting areas) and roof rambled out over the marsh for about 80 yards on bamboo stilts.  With every step, the floor bounced and swayed. Each little sitting area was square and included three hammocks and a bamboo mat.

The boiled corn and pickled radish was fine, but one part of the meal will always stick out in my mind- the boiled “baby duck” eggs.  Mongkol mentioned them on the way and I remember seeing something similar on the TV show Fear Factor (not a good sign).  He ordered a few eggs and I was on the fence as he explained that some are some eggs that are more “mature” then others. He opened the first egg and I couldn’t believe my eyes – it contained a baby duck with eyes, a bill, feathers and feet.  He didn’t say it, but I think it was more mature than he wanted too.  He ate it and I found myself doubting I would do the same.

In the end, the next egg was much less mature (much more amorphous than duck-like) and I ate the whole thing.  Truthfully, the taste was not bad at all, but the idea of eating a duck fetus was not a nice image – a vegetarian’s worst nightmare I'm sure.

We both think a lot of Mongkol and look forward to hearing about his experiences in the US, where we’re sure he’ll do well.  We appreciate so much the time he spent with us answering our myriad questions and introducing us to his Cambodia, baby ducks and all.

Carrick's picture
By: Carrick on July 6, 2006 - 6:12am
I am totally grossed out. From now on I will refer to you as "that baby duck eater". ;-) Yuck.

By: Somongkol (not verified) on July 6, 2006 - 2:25pm
It was fun being out with you, Lee and Sachi! I hope to see you again when u get back from Sihanoukville. Can't wait to hear about your time there. See ya soon. :)
By: Betty (not verified) on July 7, 2006 - 10:17am
When I was little my parents would buy baby duck eggs too! They were a specialty and I used to love them. I never ate the baby though, just the white part and maybe some yolk. Actually, yeah, maybe I did eat the baby once. It was weird. Maybe that's why I'm a vegetarian now.
By: Monique (not verified) on July 7, 2006 - 10:20am
Lee, I'm so grossed out by the baby duck photo. YUCK yuck YUCK. In a coincidence kind of way though it's related to what I've been up to this week. Raincoast Books released part 1 of a 3-part podcast with Anthony Bourdain. Do you know him? He's a NY celebrity chef, he's got a show in the States No Reservations and he travels around the world tasting crazy food. His new book is The Nasty Bits. In the podcast he talks about the grossest Canadian thing he's ever eaten. Seal eyeball. Like a concord grape. Quite delicious. Like sushi. So baby duck, eh? I wonder if Bourdain's tried it ... If you want to listen to the podcast it's at
By: Mattias (not verified) on July 7, 2006 - 10:51pm
Ahhh! Duck eggs, or Balut as they call it in the Philippines. Makes you feel like a man, doesn't it?! :) They are supposed to have aphrodisiac effects too...
By: leelefever on July 8, 2006 - 3:33pm
I'm not too sure Sachi wanted to get too close after eating that. Maybe she needed one too!