Tourists have often found the notion of eating insects, well, disgusting. Many curious travelers have found themselves on the streets of Bangkok, staring at a vendor with a plate full of crickets thinking, “It probably tastes just like chicken, right?” Let’s settle this once and for all. Do they eat insects in Thailand?
Yes, both locals and international travelers eat insects in Thailand. Insects have been a staple of Thailand for thousands of years, starting in the remote northern provinces. Many insects can be eaten in Thailand, provided they are adequately cooked and stored efficiently.
Related: Are There Turkeys In Thailand?
Do Locals Eat Insects In Thailand?
Eating insects has long been a tradition among local Tai people. Historians believe the practice originated in the poorest part of Thailand, where the local farmers struggled to grow crops and raise livestock.
Early rice farmers often collect grasshoppers while tending their fields and sell them to local vendors. The farmers saw these insects as pests that destroyed any potential harvest. Still, the vendors saw them as tasty snacks that could make them a lot of money.
Western travelers might find the practice of eating insects disgusting and just plain weird. But the creativity of a hungry nation turned entomophagy into a culinary art form.
Do Tourists Eat Insects In Thailand?
Here is where the definition of “tourists” becomes essential. When we say “tourist,” do we mean travelers from modernized western countries, or are we talking about other Asian visitors from neighboring countries?
Many western tourists find eating insects in Thailand a novelty, a challenge for social media to garner attention from their friends and family. At the same time, other travelers take eating insects as a way to learn about Thailand’s culture and history.
Which Insects Do They Eat In Thailand?
While traveling in Thailand, travelers will be spoiled for choices, from grasshoppers to giant water bugs. But which insect is the tastiest? Do you eat the wings or not? Many travelers have come face to face with a cart full of cooked critters but don’t know where to begin. Let’s see if we can shine a light on the options Thailand has for them.
Grasshoppers provide an excellent source of protein. Every nature survival enthusiast can tell us that much, but how should grasshoppers be prepared? What does grasshopper taste like? Does grasshopper have a texture, or do people who eat them get a mouth full of guts?
Grasshoppers are traditionally deep-fried whole inside a pot full of soy sauce. Their plump bodies absorb the spices and herbs added to the sauce very well. Add a little salt to taste, and the average tourist couldn’t tell the difference between a grasshopper and a chicken popper.
Grasshoppers are a staple of Thailand’s tourist industry. They are the perfect gateway to Thailand’s wonderful world of entomophagy.
Giant Water Bugs
Giant water bugs are either boiled or deep-fried whole and served to travelers. The curious traveler then must remove its head and outer shell to get to the water bug’s cooked meat. Food critics have described the taste of giant water bugs almost as a sort of licorice with a hint of bubblegum.
Thai rice farmers refer to these bugs as “toe-biters” as they are found in shallow rice fields. There are over 170 species of giant water bugs worldwide, but the one native to Thailand is called the Lethocerus indicus
Bamboo worms thrive during the rainy season in the wetlands of Thailand. They choose to make bamboo shoots their homes, and thousands of bamboo worms can harvest if the farmers are committed enough.
Bamboo worms can be stored for up to three years if the proper preservatives are utilized, making them a reliable stream of income for the local Tai vendors. Due to their seasonal reproduction and remote living area, the cost of bamboo worms could vary wildly depending on the time of year they are sold.
According to some people, the taste of bamboo worms is somewhat cheesy, and the texture is soft and stiff due to their shells and the way they are prepared.
Crickets are another stape insect of the Tai diet. They can be prepared in various ways to bring out the natural flavor of the crickets. Tai vendors often fry them as this is the easiest and quickest method to keep up with demands from hungry customers.
Travelers have returned from Thailand and told of the fried crickets served with white pepper, soy sauce, and a local beer that made quite the culinary extravaganza.
Do Insects Have Any Nutritional Value?
In a study titled “Six-legged livestock: Edible insect farming, collection, and marketing in Thailand,” published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, researchers found that global food production would need to increase by 60% to cater to a projected global population of 9 billion by 2050.
Researchers also looked to the nutritional value of insects to see if these under-appreciated critters might solve the global food shortage that is to come. Here is what they found.
These insects carry a lot of protein, and their amino acid profiles are suitable for livestock and human consumption. The protein found in these insects is highly digestible and an excellent dietary protein source. However, methionine was the first limiting amino acid in cases where insects were used as food or animal feed.
Fat was the second most prominent nutrient in these insects. The fat content of the insects varied depending on the species, diet, gender, and life stage.
Interestingly enough, carbohydrates were almost wholly absent in the bodies of the insects. This lack of carbs could give dietitians pause to consider the health benefits of a reduced carbohydrate diet by incorporating insects into various meals.
The fiber was found in significant amounts in insects these researchers studied. The fiber consisted primarily of chitin and sclerotized proteins forming the insect’s body.
The only lacking mineral was calcium, as these insects had much lower calcium levels than their endoskeleton counterparts. The day researchers and entomologists discover a lactating insect that moos, the human race will be covered entirely on the food front!
Where Can You Eat Insects In Thailand?
Bangkok is the best place any tourist can go to experience the intricacies of Thailand’s insect-eating culture fully. Here are a few notable spots in Bangkok that serve the perfect insect.
Khlong Toei Market
The Khlong Toei Market has many items on sale, from flowers to clothing to mountains of insects, cooked to perfection. The Khlong Toei market is situated in a fast-developing district with various amenities, such as jogging paths, boat trips up the Chao Phraya river, and much more.
Khaosan Road is a stubby street located in central Bangkok, first constructed in the early 1890s during the reign of Rama V. Khaosan road is only half a mile north of the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew.
Visitors to Khaosan Road can expect to find several Tai delicacies, including their world-famous Grasshoppers.
Soi Patpong is the heart of Bangkok’s thriving nightlife. However, many travelers have remarked on the street’s enticing red glow. Entertainment and food of a wide variety can be found here if the tourist is feeling “adventurous.”
Talad Rot Fai
Talad Rot Fai is Bangkok’s famous train night market. Opening its doors to travelers visiting after the sun has set. The Talad Rot Fai market offers many exciting ways for local vendors to prepare their crawling delights.