So flash to the big event. I’m crouched on a thatched-bamboo platform in Southern Cambodia, about to eat a mouthful of live shrimp. Actually, they’re called Dancing Shrimp. The cute name doesn’t make it any better as I’m now picturing a playful group of “Off-Broadway” shellfish, passionate about their performance and a brood of brine on the way. My appetite and curiosity (and peer pressure) is about to end that life. Damn that second rule.
To the best of my understanding, I’m supposed to give the clay-pot in front of me three hard shakes (the shrimp are probably pissed-off enough without being rigorously agitated), rip off the lid, and scoop the contents into my mouth. The group of Cambodian teens that have convinced me to do this are at the edge or their floor-cushions and I’m getting the feeling this is one of those times that humor is the point over pride. Whatever.
I shake the pot, pop the lid, and like Pandora’s box little shrimp shoot out in all directions. Spoon in hand I dig into the container and heap a pile into my mouth. To any animal rights activists, I say this in the most compassionate and remorseful way possible. The shrimp were extraordinary. The initial shock of their flicking was quickly surpassed by an intense blast of scolding chili, garlic and cooling citrus. I chewed quickly but guiltily savored what could be described as the weirdest/best/freshest ceviche I’ve tried. Although wide-eyed and grinning, no one laughed. I had another scoop.
Karma typically dictates against eating unconscious crustaceans, but in a predominantly Buddhist country I’ll believe their sacrifice was probably deserved and definitely delicious. Would I eat it again? No. But that one-time guilt is easily diluted with an afternoon/evening/morning of beers with new friends.
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