Thai Fried Insects

Aug 28, 2014

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Thai fried insects story by Nine

Thai Insects – Popular Snack Food in Thailand

Many people in Thailand enjoy eating insects as a snack food, or in the North and Northeast as local dishes like chili paste and curry with some vegetables.  In fact, cooked bugs have been a gastronomic delight among Thai people, especially those in the North and Northeast, for more than a century. Incredibly, there are around 200 types of edible insects in the Kingdom.  Interestingly, two dozen of them are habitually consumed by local people in both upcountry and urban areas.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”16px”][vc_single_image image=”2909″ css_animation=”fadeInUp” alignment=”center” style=”vc_box_rounded” border_color=”grey” img_link_large=”yes” img_link_target=”_self” title=”Thai fried insect card” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”16px”][vc_column_text]The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations makes a compelling case that insects are key to our future food security.  Insects are full of protein, good fats, calcium, iron, and zinc — making them viable alternatives to chicken, pig, and cow meat.

It is believed that farmers or bug-eaters in the old days who discovered that some insects were edible did not even know insects were nutritious.  They ate them solely because they are addictively tasty.

One would find street vendors selling fried insects everywhere as snacks, just the same as other street food in Thailand.  Also, other popular places where fried insects would be found are at the Temple Fairs throughout Thailand.  They are all prepared in a very similar fashion, deep fried in a wok to a crisp, nicely salted and seasoned with Golden Mountain sauce (Thai soy sauce), with sprinkles of Thai pepper powder.

1. Tugka Tan or Grasshoppers (1.5″ – 2” long)

Grasshoppers were known as one of the pests that damaged rice crops and they are also one of the top attractions on any Thai bug cart.

They are crunchier than potato chips, more like a deep fried piece of pork skin yet much lighter and airy.  Grasshoppers do have a little bit of a bug flavour, but mostly take on the flavour of salt and pepper.  It would feel like munching Cheetos although the legs can have spines and it is better to remove them before eating.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”16px”][vc_single_image image=”2911″ css_animation=”fadeInUp” alignment=”center” style=”vc_box_rounded” border_color=”grey” img_link_large=”yes” img_link_target=”_self” title=”Tukkatan tod” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”16px”][vc_column_text]

2.  Norn Pai (Rot Duan) or Bamboo Worms (1″ long) 

“Norn” means worm in Thai and “Pai” means bamboo and “Rot Duan” means a fast train, calling after its shape.  This is a bamboo worm insect and the one to be found the most tasty and creamy.  It is thin and white, another Thai favorite bug to eat.

If one is not so keen about eating bugs, but still want to try, it is recommended to have a sample of bamboo worms.  They are very neutral tasting and if someone did not know they were worms may think they were just cheese-less Cheetos.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”16px”][vc_single_image image=”2910″ css_animation=”fadeInUp” alignment=”center” style=”vc_box_rounded” border_color=”grey” img_link_large=”yes” img_link_target=”_self” title=”Rod Duan” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”16px”][vc_column_text]

3.  Jing Reed or Cricket (1.25″ – 1.5″ long)

One of the most common insects for snacking.  Crickets or “Jing Reed” in Thai have a rather strong bug flavour, far less tasty than grasshoppers and not as crunchy and has more of a mushy texture to it.  It would be wised to pull off their legs before eating because there are many types of crickets and some of them may have razor sharp legs.

4.  Norn Mai or Silk Worm (1″ long)

“Norn” means worm in Thai and “Mai” means silk.  Silk worms are deep fried and the least crispy bug of this snack.  They have the texture of mashed potatoes with almost familiar peanut-ty taste.

5.  Mang Da or Giant Water Bugs (3”-3.5” long)

Giant water bugs or “Mang Da” in Thai are the largest insects eaten as snack and their essence is commonly extracted and added to special Thai “Narm Prik” chili paste, which is enjoyed by many locals, notably in the Northeast region.  Mang Da has a distinct aroma that many find desirable, and no other insects have the same smell.  The female Mang Da have no smell and are eaten only as snack.  Male Mang Da have the particular smell and are used to make the special chili paste.

To eat a giant water bug one must remove the hard outer wings.  The meat and eggs of the body are eaten and finally fish out all the meat from the head.  Giant water bugs have a highly distinct flavour that is similar to black licorice or anise.  The body is a bit juicy, while the head tastes more like sour mushy crab.

Above are just some examples of popular fried insect snacks in Thailand.  There are many more edible insects like red ants and some types of beetles as well, but these are the standard bugs included on many of the snacking carts on Thai streets.

Over recent decades, edible insects have been used in value-added products such as canned foods or snacks in attractive packages and on a commercial scale.  Increasing number of people are eating insects nowadays, even expensive restaurants (US, Thai, Japanese), but the old traditions of collecting and cooking insects in Thailand have not changed much.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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