Have you ever tried to eat an insect in your life? Eating fried insects is normal in Thailand. Insects are low in calories, high in protein and extremely nutritious. If you would like to try them, you can easily find fried insects sold by the vendors on the street, especially at touristy places.
Your adventure trip to Thailand would not be complete without trying these snacks.
Bamboo Worms (Rot Duan) : หนอนไม้ไผ่ หรือ รถด่วน
Bamboo Worms are called Rot Duan or express train in Thai, due to their shape. They eat bamboo pulp in a bamboo tube. It can be found in the North of Thailand during the rainy season. It is the most basic snack for the start of eating insects and you can easily find them at almost every street food vendor selling insects in the country. The taste and texture of these worms is like of a small crunchy corn puff snack with a bit of saltiness.
Silkworms (Nhon Mhai) : หนอนไม้ หรือ ดักแด้
Silkworms known as Nhon Mai are our favourite.
It is a popular snack for locals. Silkworms come from a range of families, but they are all from the butterflies. They have a soft shell that is crispy after frying it. The taste is a bit like tofu but creamy and has a taste of herbs because they are usually fried with kaffir leaves. Silkworms are perfect to eat with soy sauce and pepper.
Grasshoppers (Tak Ka Tan) : ตั๊กแตน
Grasshoppers are healthy and a valuable source of protein and calcium. Each grasshopper measures about 5-6cm in length. Grasshoppers taste a bit like a crunchy shrimp. You need to pick off the legs before eating them.
Crickets (Jing Reed) : จิ้งหรีด
Crickets are a delicacy in the Northeast of Thailand. They are very close to grasshoppers, and indeed, even look like them, but they taste very different. They are crunchy and have a unique taste like a popcorn and nut.
Giant Water Bugs (Maeng Da) : แมงดา
This is by far the largest insects that we've eaten as a snack. Giant Water Bugs are large (about 8 cm long) winged insects. They live in the rice fields and are eaten in the Northeast region of Thailand. In Thai cooking, Giant Water Bugs are mainly used for "Nam Prik Maeng Da" recipe, which is a super-hot chilli paste. They are also served as a snack. They are quite difficult to eat as you have to discard the pincers and wings. These bugs have strong smell with a salty and creamy taste. Some say that they are similar to caviar.
We've listed the most popular fried edible insects in Thailand. However, you can try the others such as scorpions (Maeng Pawng), Molecriket (Maeng Kra Chon), and cockchafer (Maeng Eee Noon) as well. They are commonly sold together.
How they cook insects
Before frying, all insects must be washed thoroughly about 3 times to remove the smell. Then they are left to drain.
Frying insects is like frying something else. Just heat the pan to the medium heat and then add vegetable oil. When the oil is boiling, put the insects into the pan to fry till the they are crispy and golden yellow.
How to eat insects
Normally, the insects are served with some white pepper and soy sauce. Many people love to eat it as a snack with beer.
Where to buy insects
As fried insects are more popular nowadays, you can buy them in many places. Locals still like to buy them from street vendors. You can also find the edible insects at various shops such as 7/11 and other supermarkets. In addition, touristy places such as Khaosan road, Patpong and Soi Cowboy are a good place to find them.
How much do they cost
It should cost about 20-30 baht per ladle.
Even if fried insects are delicious for some Thai people and foreigners, there are still some precautions about eating fried insects
- Some sellers may use low quality oil and repeatedly reuse the same oil again. It will not be good for your health.
- Insects have chitin that helps to reduce cholesterol level in the body, but if they are fried in oil, they absorb a lot of oil and are filled with fat.
- Chitin and chitosan might be good as we mentioned above, but if you will eat too many insects, it can cause calcium deficiency and may interfere with the absorption of fat and vitamins such as vitamin A and E.
- Who should not eat fried insects or should not eat too many insects?
- Allergic people with asthma may be allergic to the components of insects.
- People with bone problems and pregnant women, because the chitin and chitosan can make calcium absorption worse. It may damage the bone or cause abnormal growth of the fetus.
- People with a risk of being obese, because fried insects are rich of fat from the oil.
- People with renal disease, because the ingredients used to add the flavour have high sodium.