“You have to try the beef with ants,” Melissa from Siem Reap Rooms, the best guesthouse in Siem Reap insisted, and so I did. Like most Khmer meats, the beef itself takes a secondary role behind the flavors. Many meat dishes in this part of the world tend to be of the minced variety. I would venture to guess that this is to ensure there is no rare or uncooked portion of meat in the dish, since refrigeration still seems a few decades away from your average meat market. Rather than focus on the flavor of the beef, like you would with a steak, or even a burger, the infusion of different spices, particularly cilantro , Thai basil and chilis combines with the fat to make most meat dishes.
The ants are cooked down by the time you get the dish, so there is no wow factor. They do add an interesting lemony zest to the beef dish, which is why they are used. This version also came with a good amount of veggies that made the dish an overall star and perhaps the best thing I ate in Cambodia.