Some Thai Food Has Six Legs

Deep-fried giant water bugs are often seen at local markets of Bangkok, Thailand.

Deep-fried giant water bugs are often seen at local markets of Bangkok, Thailand. Photo : Wikimedia Commons.

Many people enjoy Thai food worldwide: spicy soups and salads, flavorful rice dishes are abundant. But in Thailand, fried or roasted insects and scorpions are also popular, readily available, and inexpensive.

Insects have traditionally been a rich source of protein, calories, vitamins, and minerals in the Northern Thailand diet. They are also prized as delicacies. In fact, it is unusual to find an insect which is not eaten in one form or another by local people. Among the most popular are:

  • cicadas, locusts, mantises, crickets, and grasshoppers which are all deep fried and are rather crunchy;
  • bamboo worms, which are also deep fried;
  • giant water bugs, which are steamed; they are also ground into a paste with chili and eaten with sticky rice;
  • weaver ants (red ants with a painful bite) and their eggs;
  • sticky rice is dipped into a mixture of ants, eggs, and chili;
  • dung beetles; which add a wholesome flavor to curries; however, many people will not eat them because they live in and on excrement.

In addition, Thai people will eat

  • the pupae of silk moths and other moths and butterflies; you must first remove the pupae from their cocoons, then boil them until soft with a pinch of salt, finally sautée them lightly;
  • the larvae of wasps and bees; these are deep-fried;

and arachnids:

  • poisonous scorpions, which are grilled;
  • giant tarantulas, which are also grilled.

I haven't seen other spiders eaten, but I suspect if it moves, it's considered food somewhere.

Also, termites (large white ants) are grilled and their eggs are a delicacy used to make a flavorful soup.

Where I lived in Bangkok, Sukhumvit Soi 4, every night starting around 5:00 PM, there was a street vendor with half a dozen kinds of fried and grilled insects and scorpions; her customers were mainly the bar girls in the area. Every night she was quite busy as the girls consider these insects a tasty snack, and munch on them as frequently as Western people munch on potato chips.

The lady vendor does not speak any English, but will pose with her wares for a photograph if you give her a 20 baht (about 60 cents) tip. And if you're brave, you could always buy a bag of deep fried bamboo worms...

Doug Anderson is a retired Canadian programmer. He first visited Thailand in 1988 and has been back many times since.
www.thai-culture-publishing.com
www.photography-help.biz

Copyright © 2007 Douglas Anderson