“Would you like to try a silkworm?” asked the friendly Caucasian tourist man, as he held out a little plastic baggie towards us invitingly.
We were standing near the gate of Phuket’s Wat Suwankiriket Temple Market in the evening, taking in the bustle of the night market and deciding on some street food snacks before heading back for dinner to the Moevenpick Resort Karon Beach where we were staying for the weekend. We had spotted the stall with piles of different insects on its tables and rubbernecked like the proper tourists that we were, but nowhere had it crossed our minds that we would partake in this delicacy ourselves.
I was hesitant – I was recovering from a pretty severe case of stomach flu just 2 days ago, but curiousity got the better of us – you don’t have someone offering you insects everyday do you? My motto is to try everything at least once after all, so we ended up gingerly reached into the baggie, each pulling out the most innocuous looking piece of worm we could find.
Naturally, I made A record my attempt on video for posterity. This is me and my very first attempt ever at consciously eating an insect:
So you know what, it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. One expects insects to taste… insect-y somehow. We’re conditioned as city folk to see insects as disease ridden pests and nuisances, so perhaps that’s what we expect to taste when we put them in our mouths, regardless of the fact that many cultures have had insects as a part of their diet for a long time.
Quite honestly, there isn’t any real ‘insect taste’ at play here – the insects are deep fried and well seasoned, and the bamboo worm (not the silkworm as I mistakenly thought it was in the video) barely is made up of much ‘meat’, so the experience was very much like chewing on a tasty bit of fried batter more than anything else.
The kindly Caucasian man who offered us a bit of his insect snack had long disappeared into the crowd, amused at our squealing over the insects, but A and I decided after our fairly good first attempt that we would be a bit braver and try some other insects while we were at the market. Our Thai guide told us that 50 Thai Baht would get us any combination of insects that we wanted, so we got to studying the insect spread in front of us more closely.
We ruled out the giant water beetles that looked way too crunchy for insect-eating newbies like us – though our waitress at the restaurant later on told us that she loved these in particular and that they were often ground up and added to make a special chili paste. The ever-popular grasshoppers also looked a little too big and scary and A heard a story of someone getting grasshopper legs stuck in their teeth, so we passed on that.
Finally, we settled on more of the bamboo worms, actual silkworms and little crickets – the stall lady tossed them all into her deep fryer, then seasoned them up before giving us our own little baggie to take back to the hotel with us.
Observe, another quick video review of me eating our new bunch of insects:
Silkworms are fatter than that of the bamboo worms, so you could feel the ‘meat’ of the silkworm as you bit into it. The trick is not to think too hard about it being ‘insect’, and just treat it like a random snack so you can swallow it down without feeling the need to throw up. Crickets are a little different from the worms – crispier, and I just could not look at the legs when I ate them because they reminded me too much of cockroach legs (and I’m not ready for all that jazz yet). But all in all they still tasted mostly of the seasoning, which in this case for salt and pepper and a hint of spice.
So there you have it, one more crazy thing done in the name of travel that I might not have done here at home! Insects might be normal for some of you out there, but they definitely aren’t my usual fare and while I probably won’t be ordering large baggies of insects as snacks still, I’m definitely more open to trying weirder insects in the near future.
What weird stuff have you eaten on your travels lately?