[UPDATED: Oct 2020]
If exotic food tickles your fancy, then you should definitely try these little critters the next time you visit Thailand. Don’t worry — you’ll be spoiled for choice. There are so many different types to choose from.
Apart from being a great travel story to tell, did you know that eating bugs also comes with a host of additional benefits? In fact, some organic food enthusiasts and environmentalists even recommend eating bugs as a healthy snack. Not only are they free from preservatives, they are also rich in protein, comparable with that of soybeans. Bugs contain dietary fiber and mostly unsaturated fats. Some may even contain vitamins and essential minerals.
Plus, the farming of edible insects causes less ecological damage than traditional livestock. So, if you’re ready, let’s introduce you to the different types of bugs you can find in Thailand.
Types of Edible Bugs in Thailand
Silkworms – Slightly crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside. Think fried mashed potatoes. Nutty taste.
Water Beetles – Giant-sized cockroaches that live in water and retain most of their water content even after being fried. I’d suggest closing your mouth while you chew.
Grasshoppers – Bestselling bugs on the market. Crunchier than potato chips, airier than pork skin.
Scorpions – (See below)
Bamboo Worms – 1-inch long, multi-legged worms that are similar to (unflavored) popcorn in taste and texture.
Crickets – Bugs with claws, gnarly legs, and big bulging eyes. Remember to remove the claws before eating.
Locusts – Similar to grasshoppers, but a lot bigger.
Ant Salad – A scoopful of ants and ant eggs served with a blend of soy sauce, lime, and other herbs.
Where to Find 'Em
Now that you have decided which type of bug you’d like to try, let’s find out where to get them. Some restaurants and bars (though not many) may serve them as beer snacks. Alternatively, you can go to local food markets where there should be at least one food cart selling insects.
Places that are frequented by tourists are also a good option, although they would probably be double the price. These sellers had realized the appeal of exotic food to foreign tourists and were quick to make a good profit out of it.
Is It Safe?
Yes. Most insects in Thailand are farmed instead of simply scavenged in the forest. So, there has to be some kind of quality control being practiced.
In general, the bugs sold in Thailand are also well prepared. They are either dried or deep fried to a crisp, making them safer to eat than say, the raw version. Just exercise the same caution as you would when choosing other street food. Choose food carts and sellers that look relatively clean.
Eating A Scorpion on Khao San Road
There were two insect food carts on Khao San Road on the night of my visit.
Both sellers had a signboard asking for THB10 from those who only wanted to take photos. Pretty smart, if you ask me. A lot of people are intrigued by these interesting street snacks, but not many are brave enough to eat one. So, the sellers probably ended up with a huge camera-toting crowd who only wanted to take pictures without buying anything. They might as well start making money out of it.
Out of the 7 – 8 different types of bugs on display, I settled on scorpions because they looked the least yucky to me. Besides, saying that I ate a scorpion would sound much cooler, I think, than saying I ate a beetle or a cockroach.
The seller put a few scorpions side by side for me to choose. He arranged them according to size — from big to medium to small. Each scorpion cost THB50, regardless of size, which was a bit of a ripoff, but I wasn’t in the mood to haggle.
I chose a medium-sized one. The seller sprinkled some pepper and soy sauce on it. I think the scorpions were the only bugs sold on skewers.
Happy with my purchase, I went to a more secluded spot so I could consume my purchase in privacy and have it recorded on video.
Choosing a scorpion turned out to be a wise decision. At least it wasn’t mushy. The outer shell was crunchy but not hard, so there was no problem chewing through it. It actually reminded me of those tiny crabs that are a popular snack in Japan.
The inside was of a powdery texture and tasted a little bitter — like cocoa powder but without the cocoa smell. I’m not sure if there was actually any flesh in it. It was hard to tell because the scorpion was too small.
I think it wasn’t as bad as I initially thought it would be. The fear was all in my mind. If I didn’t know what it was, I guess I wouldn’t have been so grossed out. But because I knew it was a scorpion in my mouth, albeit a tiny one, I gagged a few times.
Still, I managed to finish it all, except for a small piece that got stuck in my braces, where it stayed for the rest of the evening till I got back to my room to brush my teeth.