Insects are a delicacy in many parts of Southeast Asia. If you find yourself in Thailand, you may be surprised at how common it is to find people eating insects. Yet they are tasty as well as highly nutritional; most of them are rich in protein, healthy fats, iron, calcium, and carbohydrates.
This blog will show you which insects in Thailand are locally consumed, how they are prepared and sold, and the nutritional value they provide.
Bamboo worms are the larvae of moths. Their habitat is normally found in forests and bamboo groves. Bamboo worms have the appearance of chubby toothpicks, with bumps along their bodies. The Thai name for this meal is “non mai phai” (Thai: หนอนไม้ไผ่), but they are commonly called “rot duan” (Thai: รถด่วน), meaning ‘express train’. The taste and texture of these worms is like a small crunchy snack, with a bit of saltiness and grease. The nutritional value in 100g of bamboo worms includes 121 kcal, and consists of 12g of protein, 5g of carbs, and 5g of fat.
Silkworms are one of the most popular choices to eat, among the insects in local markets. In Thai, they are known as “non mhai” (Thai: หนอนไหม). Silkworms have a soft shell that becomes a bit crispy after frying. They typically have a crunchy texture, and a sweet flavour of hazelnut and almond. Silkworms are known for their nutritional qualities. The nutritional value in 100g of silkworms includes 100 kcal, as well as 9g of protein, 2g of carbs, and 6g of fat.
Grasshoppers are insects with two hind legs designed for jumping long distances. The Thai name for this insect is “tak ka tan” (Thai: ตั๊กแตน). The size of a typical grasshopper is 5-6 cm in length, although the grasshopper’s legs need to be removed before they are consumed. The legs have spikes on them, the spikes may cause damage to the tongue or lip unless they are removed. Fried grasshoppers are crunchy, and very tasty. The nutritional value in 100g of grasshoppers includes 110 kcal, as well as 14g of protein, 5g of carbs, and 5g of fat.
Crickets are a close relative to grasshoppers, sharing many physical features – and their legs should also be removed before they are consumed. In Thailand, crickets are called “jing reed” (Thai: จิ้งหรีด). They taste similar to popcorn or nuts, although they have a rather mild taste. The nutritional value in 100g of crickets includes 121 kcal, as well as 12.9g of protein, 5.1g of carbs, and 5.5g of fat.
Giant Water Bugs
Giant water bugs are the largest ‘commonly’ eaten insect. Thai people call them “maeng da” (Thai: แมงดา). They are often 8-10cm long. The ones sold by the street are normally deep-fried, but these insects are sometimes used to make a kind of sauce that goes well with rice or fried pork skin. Giant water bugs are best eaten with their pincer and wings removed. The bugs have a strong smell, along with a salty and creamy taste that reminds some people of caviar. The nutritional value in 100g of giant water bugs includes 162 kcal, as well as 19.8g of protein, 2.1g of carbs, and 8.3g of fat.
Insects in Thailand can be a delicacy when prepared properly, but not every insect is edible. Eat the ones that are commonly eaten in the market, but don’t go around catching wild insects, cooking them and consuming them. Just enjoy them the way that Thai people do – and you’ll expand your culinary horizons in a way you probably never expected!