Do They Eat Insects In Vietnam?

credit: Yay

For most people, insects aren’t on the list of delicacies they want to try in Vietnam. Yet many countries and cultures worldwide eat bugs as commonly as others eat potatoes. Asian countries are known for pushing the limits of what’s edible, but do they eat insects in Vietnam?

Vietnamese people eat various kinds of insects and consider them a delicacy. Silkworms, crickets, and bee larvae are common foods all over Vietnam, but people in rural areas also indulge in spiders, scorpions, and water bugs. The insects are full of protein but usually don’t have much flavor.

Related: Are There A Lot Of Bugs In Vietnam?

What Insects Do They Eat In Vietnam?

Vietnam has some of the strangest delicacies you can find anywhere. From frogs to snake hearts and even fertilized duck eggs. But, while many people might still try some of those, only the truly brave will even dare to eat some of these popular Vietnamese insect dishes.


Fried silkworms
Yay Fried silkworms

Vietnam inherited silkworm farming from China, and it’s become quite a booming industry, especially in the northern parts. Because of how many silkworms the country has, it makes sense that the silkworm would become a delicacy.

The Vietnamese people prefer to eat silkworm pupae, which is when the worm is in the process of turning into a butterfly. Chefs salt the pupae and then fry them in oil and fish sauce.

Since they don’t generally have much flavor, the silkworm pupae are combined with lemon leaves and served as a part of other dishes, like salads.

Silkworms are highly nutritional. They contain plenty of protein and minerals, and scientists are studying their benefits for those suffering from arthritis and kidney problems.


Fried grasshoppers
Yay Fried grasshoppers

The rice fields of Vietnam are always full of grasshoppers, especially during harvesting season. When the Vietnamese people went through severe poverty in the 1980s, many started eating grasshoppers since they were so freely available. Children would make games out of catching grasshoppers and taking them home to cook.

Though it’s not so common anymore since Vietnam has become far more prosperous, plenty of people still enjoy grasshoppers as a delicacy. One reason for their popularity is their crunchiness.

Before cooking, the cook will clean the grasshopper, removing its wings, antennae, legs, and organs. Some chefs also prefer to remove the head, but this is not required. They are then rinsed in salt water and left to dry before they are roasted in a pan until deep brown.

Grasshoppers also don’t have a very prominent taste, so they are mixed with herbs and spices to give them more flavor. As with silkworms, lemon leaves are a popular choice.

Grasshoppers are also a great source of protein and essential nutrients.

Giant Water Bugs

Giant water bugs and other edible fried insects
Yay Giant water bugs and other edible fried insects

Giant water bugs are perhaps the most popular insects to eat in Vietnam, mainly because they actually have a taste. The bugs are steamed, cut into thin slices, and popularly served with Banh Cuon, a type of pancake filled with mushrooms, pork, and shrimp.

The giant water bugs have a sweet, syrupy juice that tastes almost like apples and licorice, adding a subtle sweet flavor to your dish to balance any savory or sour meal. That might sound quite tempting, even to those who can’t stand the thought of eating insects.

The sweet juice is the male water bug’s pheromones. It uses the pheromone to attract females. It is called Ca Cuong and is a popular additive in dipping sauces and toppings.

In terms of nutritional value, giant water bugs are so nutritious that many consider them the ideal candidate for a meal replacement. They are rich in protein, calcium, zinc, and iron.


The Vietnamese mainly eat two types of spiders: tarantulas and giant wood spiders. Interestingly, though people associate the eating of tarantulas with Vietnam, it is actually more common in Cambodia, though the trend has crossed the border somewhat.

The Vietnamese generally prefer the giant wood spider, common in the Phan Dung forest in the Tuy Phong district. The spider is black with bright yellow stripes and has six legs.

One reason the giant wood spider is so popular, apart from how common it is, is that it’s effortless to cook. You can prepare it any way you want, and it will still be edible and (according to the locals) taste great.

Most often, people prefer to deep fry the wood spiders and tarantulas. But the wood spider can just as quickly be placed on a skewer and cooked on an open fire, making it a quick and easy meal when you run out of food while in the forest.

Wood spiders have a rich, buttery, silky taste, but they taste even better if you prepare them with salt and fish sauce.

Spiders are rich in protein, zinc, and folic acid. Though they aren’t complete meal replacements, they are nutritious enough to sustain you for a long time.

Where To Eat Insects In Vietnam

Unlike the western world, where various chefs have tried to put crickets on the menu (with little to no success), all restaurants have them in Vietnam. Because insects are such a typical delicacy in Vietnam, the rich and the poor eat them.

You can walk into virtually any restaurant in the big cities and order the most common insects. For example, De Sua Rec Rec in Ho Chi Minh City sells crickets, bee larvae, and a few varieties of spiders.

But some more uncommon insects are only available outside the cities. As you move into more rural areas, you will find the more obscure (and cheaper) dishes, like centipedes, grasshoppers, water beetles, and scorpions.

Of course, if you are the more adventurous type, the markets are the best places to find a wide variety of insects and other critters that are good to eat. This will save you quite a few dollars.

The downside of buying raw ingredients is that you will have to prepare and cook them yourself. There are great recipes and video guides on the internet, but some insects can be poisonous if you don’t prepare them correctly.

Lastly, many street stalls and kiosks sell pre-cooked insects that you can eat immediately. As with any informal fast-food establishment, you can’t always guarantee the quality you will get. Still, many tourists say this is where you get the most authentic Vietnamese insect dishes, as restaurants are too westernized.

How Do The Vietnamese Eat Their Insects?

The exact preparations and meal ingredients will differ depending on the type of insect and the meal you want. But there are a few basic guidelines.

Most insects don’t have a very distinctive taste. Therefore, the general rule is to spice them quite heavily after cleaning them. Salt and pepper are bare essentials, but the Vietnamese add potent herbs and spices like scallion oil, lemon leaves, coriander, cilantro, rice paddy herbs, basil, and chives.

The most popular way to cook them is by deep-frying. It makes the insects crunchy and chewy, making them easier to eat. The frying process also increases the flavor of the seasoning.

Insects that already have hard shells, like water bugs, may become too difficult to chew when you fry them. For these, the Vietnamese prefer to steam them so their shells can soften.

It is also popular to eat some insects raw and alive. A notable example is the coconut worm, which the Vietnamese often dip in fish oil and eat while it’s still alive.

Most often, though, the most popular way to eat insects is in a stir-fry with some butter and onions or as the protein in a salad.