Food journalists or bloggers often intimate that if you haven’t eaten bugs in SE Asia, you really haven’t eaten the local food. The burning question remains; who actually eats bugs in Thailand in this day and age, or is it just something to make tourists squirm? Leigh Higgins from Feast Thailand is giving us the lowdown on bugs!
In countries all over the world, there are people who believe that if it moves, it can be eaten. This may certainly be the case in countries where Tesco or 7 Eleven is not on every corner; is this also true in Thailand?
In local markets all over Thailand, you still find vendors selling all manner of bugs and insects. These local markets usually cater to local customers, though often international travelers want to get an experience of the ‘real’ Thailand. Locals will buy them as a snack, or to eat when with a whiskey or beer.
The burning questions are: What exactly am I eating? What do they taste like? Crickets or Grasshoppers: The whole body of both of these insects can be eaten as they become quite crispy and crunchy once fried. Sometimes grasshoppers are a little tastier, as they are potentially bigger, with more body; the seasoning also gets into all the nooks and crannies of the insect. Silk or Bamboo Worms: These are small and oblong in shape; just pop into your mouth and munch away.
The silk worm has a softer mouth-feel, not unlike gnocchi or soft-cooked potato. The bamboo worm which doesn’t have too much flavour and may be good to ‘cut your teeth on’; a first step towards eating bugs. You may find other types like Giant Water Bugs or larger Crickets, especially if you are in very regional areas of Thailand. To eat the giant water bugs, you must first remove the wings and legs, as the body is what is eaten. Locals will gently squeeze the body to ascertain whether they will be good for eating. Normally the bugs are flash-fried and heavily salted; served with a spray of soy sauce and dash of white pepper or chilli; possible a squeeze of lime juice can give them a different flavour, hence why they are a great late night drinking snack.
For 20 or 30 THB you can buy a mixed bag, just like the mixed bag of sweets when you were a kid, though I seriously doubt many local kids are eating mixed bugs after school as their snack of choice. In Hua Hin, you will find bugs sold at local markets like Dinosaur, Phae Mai or Hua Na.
They will have at least two or three different types displayed on small plates. There are sometimes mobile vendors cruising around late at night selling their crunchy delights. The other place for bugs in Hua Hin is the night market near the Grand Hotel. Here you will find a wider selection and a mix of curious international tourists and locals, buying the insects. You will also see vendors set up at any local festival that is held across Thailand.