An ‘adventurous’ trip to Thailand would not be complete without trying one of the country’s exotic snacks: insects. (Eating Insects in Thailand)
I know what you’re thinking. It’s crazy, right? Who would even dare to eat such a thing? …Well, those would be:
- Most Thais
- Some Asians
- Courageous tourists or travelers
- Health-conscious people
- Bear Grylls
Yes, I’ve tried them! But before I go on, I should clarify that eating insects in Thailand during my visit to Chiang Mai wasn’t my first time to do so, and that’s because I have already tried it once back in the Philippines. But unlike Thailand, Beijing, Laos, Cambodia etc., the Philippines doesn’t commonly sell and eat insects as a ‘street food’ — it’s more like a ‘specialty’ in few select areas like in Pampanga.
So why was I willing to eat these insects?
Because the ones that they have in Thailand were different.
Unlike the cute little crickets that I previously consumed in the PH, the Thais have it bigger and scarier! For example, they have these ridiculously big crickets that looked like it was fed with steroids!
Much like you, I envisioned its tiny legs moving inside my mouth. I even assumed that it would be disgustingly textured (with some icky juice inside, ugh!)
But thankfully, it was NOT like that. After a bit of a mental fight with my mind (mind you, I am personally terrified of these creepy crawlers — holding it with my fingers at that time was already freaking me out!), I finally managed to pop one big cricket into my mouth!
…Seconds later, I realized that it wasn’t so bad.
- Dry and crunchy – it wasn’t ‘juicy’ as I initially thought it would be (despite its plump and full-looking shape), which made sense because apparently, these are deep-fried until reaching a complete and utter state of crispiness
- Slightly spiced – it did NOT taste like chicken, a comment that I often find other people saying. In fact, it’s really hard to describe the raw taste of these crickets because it is not similar to any existing normal food. In fact, it was almost bland. However, what you will distinctly taste is the spice that they spray on it which is a mix of soy sauce, salt, and chili (or a mix of salt, pepper, and vinegar)
I was told that sometimes, these edible insects can also be an ingredient in certain Thai dishes — but that most of the time, it is customarily a ‘street food’ served in platters or takeaway bags, acting as a perfect snack while drinking beer.
If you ask me, I can imagine people pairing this with rice as they treat it as some sort of viand!
Should You Eat Insects in Thailand?
Now, would I recommend YOU to try eating insects? Absolutely.
Other than having the bragging rights of having eaten one or a lot, it’s also a good life and travel experience that you can recall/retell over the years. Plus, the battle within your wits as you build up the courage to pop one into your mouth can be quite a… refreshing experience.
This is because you know you want to challenge yourself, you know you want to try it out, but a huge part of you is oozing out so much fear and reluctance — it’s like an inner battle and though it can be nerve-wracking at first, the process as it builds up to the ‘finish’ can be quite fun!
Besides, like what Bear Grylls keeps saying, these insects pack a LOT of protein and are low on fat. So why not? You might end up liking its ‘flavor’ too, much like the locals!
To help guide you on how you can experience this, below are some information that you should know:
» Where to find edible insects?
During one of the food tripping sprees that I was doing with a friend in Chiang Mai, we chanced upon a stall that was selling insects. After our ‘experience’, we walked some more to a busy street and we ended up seeing yet another stall.
So basically, the answer is: “they can be found and bought almost everywhere” because at one point or another, either in a busy street or in a night market, you will come across a small insect stall/cart/vendor — and it will be hard to miss! (Surely, big piles of ominous-looking creatures displayed out in the open will quickly catch your attention).
Otherwise, you can always ask someone for directions or tips and they will be more than glad to help you out.
» How did this ‘insect-eating’ mania started?
Apparently, snacking on insects originated mainly from the northeastern part of Thailand and there is a theory that it became popular across the country when the northeastern Thais brought it to the bigger cities like Bangkok, Phuket, and Pattaya as they ventured to look for bigger jobs.
It’s said that those parts were generally poorer and since crops were often hard to grow and raising cattle was more difficult, the locals had to find a way to nourish themselves — therefore, they resorted to insects and bugs that are easy to catch. Eventually, it evolved into their favorite snack!
NOTE: Today, eating insects is not regarded as an ‘act’ that is only done by the poor people because it’s quite a craze even for the upper classes of Thailand! You might actually spot a wealthy businessman stopping over to a stall to get his insect ‘fix’.
» Other FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Some are caught in the wild while others (like silk worms or crickets) are raised or cultured on insect farms in the north and northeastern parts of the country.
One platter/bag/stick costs ฿20 baht (or $0.6+) and the biggest portions can be at ฿50 baht ($1.5+). If you only want to try one piece, they will charge ฿10 baht ($0.3+).
Absolutely. Bear Grylls for example wouldn’t have managed to live through his adventures if eating insects would actually kill him.
To add more credibility to the ‘safety’ of entomophagy (the official term of the human consumption of insects as food), the U.N. had a recent report that confirms how insects are generally high in nutritional value. To be precise, it has higher protein content and quality than any meat or fish! They’re also rich in fiber and healthy micronutrients including copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium and zinc. Somehow, insects could be a solution to some of the world’s food and health problems. (Source)
Other Insect Varieties
There are a LOT of insects, worms, and exotic varieties that you can find across Thailand! In summary, some of the well-known ones are:
- Crickets (Jing Reed or Jing Reed Khai for smaller ones)
- Grasshoppers (Tak Ga Tan)
- Water Beetles (Maeng Kee Noon)
– chewy / not to be confused with cockroaches
- Giant Water Bug (Maeng Da)
– meaty / the biggest at around 3.5″!!!
- Silk worms (Non Mai)
– strong taste and creamy
- Bamboo Worms (Non Pai or Rod Duan)
– cheesy after taste
- Red Ants (Mod Daeng)
– soft and chewy
- Ant Eggs
• • •
Like I’ve already mentioned, eating insects in Thailand can be quite an experience and you can even benefit greatly from the nutritional value you can get from them!
If however, you really can’t stomach these things, you can simply opt for the usual flavorful Thai dishes that are known for being rich and tasty!
(» READ: The Top 10 Chiang Mai Street Food Dishes!)