Have you snacked on insects, worms, or bugs?
Welcome to Thailand, where snacking is not only a way to satisfy your craving, but it’s a leisure way of life.
Throw away your artificial bag of chips and preserved cookies, because fresh bugs are widely available and waiting to be your next snack!
Sometimes edible insects are cooked within certain Thai dishes, but most of the time they are deep fried until reaching a complete state of crispiness, heavily salted, and eaten as a protein enriched snack.
Throughout Thailand you’ll be able to locate carts piled high with freshly cooked bugs, and grabbing an exotic snack is one of the top things to do while you’re in Bangkok!
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It’s like a mass bug graveyard, abundant piles of creatures on big platters. An insect cart in Thailand will often include 5 – 10 different choices.
Many of the street food insect carts are attached to portable motorbikes or bicycles so they can cruise around to find customers, who are often beer drinkers craving salty snacks.
To order you simply point and choose to whatever bite sized bugs look the most attractive.
20 THB will get you a small snack, but this time around I ordered a mixed bag full of 100 THB worth of bugs – and believe me, it was way too much for two of us.
Once you’ve chosen your bag of insects, worms, and bugs, the vendor will normally give them a mist of soy sauce from a spray bottle and a dash of pepper to top them off.
While eating dog and cat can cause some phsycological trauma, bugs on the other hand are much less nerve racking to eat. Some of them are a little scary looking, but just keep in mind that they are all safe and harmless to devour!
Now it’s time to EAT!
Here’s what’s on our menu (top to bottom):
- Giant water bugs
- Crickets on steroids
- Silk worms
- Bamboo worms
They are all prepared in a very similar fashion, deep fried to a crisp and nicely salted.
Grasshoppers are one of the top attractions on any Thai bug cart. Most of them are around 10 centimeters or so in length and are cooked fully in tact.
Eating Method: Plop the entire grasshopper into your mouth in a single bite.
How Does It Taste: Forget about potato chips, these guys are way crunchier, more like a deep fried piece of pork skin yet much lighter and airy. Grasshoppers do have a little bit of a bug flavor, but mostly take on the flavor of salt and pepper.
As soon as you bite down, the entire carcass of grasshopper is reduced kind of like Cheetos.
2. Giant Water Bugs (แมงดา)
Giant water bugs in Thailand are known as maeng daa (แมงดา), and their essence is commonly extracted and added to special Thai nam prik chili sauces.
I have also eaten them in boiled form which makes for quite an interesting snack.
Eating Method: In order to eat a giant water bug you need to first amputate the hard outer wings. Pull them off before digging into the meat and eggs of the body, and finally fish out all the meat from the head.
How Does It Taste: Giant water bugs have a highly distinct flavor that is reminiscent of black licorice or anise. The body is a bit juicy, and to me it tastes a bit like scrambled eggs, while the head tastes more like sour mushy crab.
3. Crickets on Steroids
I don’t actually know what these bugs are, I just know they look pretty scary and appear to be crickets gone wild! Big bulging eyes and gnarly legs and claws make these crickets on steroids a little frightening to look at.
Eating Method: The entire bug is edible, so just go ahead and toss the entire thing in your mouth.
How Does It Taste: These crickets on steroids have some seriously razor sharp legs. When I was eating them I nearly cut the inside of my mouth. Flavor wise they weren’t anything special, far less tasty than a grasshopper, and the crunchiness didn’t permeate through the entire body, leaving some parts mushy instead of crispy.
Perhaps it would be beneficial to pull off the nasty legs prior to consumption.
4. Silk Worms
Silk worm in Thailand are deep fried but they are the least crispy bug of this snack. These little 1 to 2 centimeter worms are kind of like fried little mashed potatoes or gnocchi pasta (Italian potato pasta) bites.
Eating Method: Silk worm are like little pills, you swallow the entire thing, and they really go down quite easily.
How Does It Taste: Silk worms have a very familiar nutty taste, almost peanut-ty I would say. Like I mentioned, they are the texture of mashed potatoes or mushed mungbeans. Just like all the other insects and bugs on this list, they take on the heavily salted flavor.
5. Bamboo Worms
Another Thai favorite bug to eat are thin white bamboo worms which are about 2 – 3 centimeters in length.
If you’re not excited about eating bugs, but still want to say you did it, I’d recommend having a sample of bamboo worms. They are very neutral tasting and if you didn’t know they were worms, you may think it was just a cheese-less Cheeto.
Eating Method: Just like the other silk worms, you just pop these guys like you’re munching on popcorn at a movie.
How Does It Taste: They really don’t have a distinct flavor to me, and eating them is quite similar to eating popcorn in both taste and texture.
Normal sized crickets, as opposed to their steroid pumped up counterparts, are small and innocent looking without being ferociousness.
They are about the same size as silk worms, 1 – 2 centermeters in length.
Eating Method: Again, the whole thing is edible, so just go ahead and grab a handful and start snacking.
How Does It Taste: Crickets indeed have a rather strong bug flavor. Imagine what a bug might taste like, and that’s exactly how a cricket tastes. Crickets also give a slight dryness to the mouth, almost like a sip of dry wine.
What’s the best tasting bug?
Silk worms are pretty decent, bamboo worms are even better, but I got to give my award to grasshoppers. In my opinion, they are the crunchiest and best flavored bug of the entire Thai edible insect repertoire.
None of the bugs are bad, in reality most of the bugs are far less flavorful than you would imagine, and are simply just crispy and salty.
There you have the ultimate guide to eating insects, worms, and bugs in Thailand. There are also many more edible creatures like red ants (which I particularly love) and scorpions as well, but these are the standard bugs included on many of the snacking carts.