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When I first came to Thailand, the tourist town I stayed in was always busy. The “on” switch was literally on all the time. I would go to the nearby, open-air bar and have a couple of drinks, chatting it up with my friends. And during that time various vendors would pass by with their wares. Being a large-sized man, I do not know why I would find appealing and then buy from a random vendor a string bikini at a bar, never ever.
However, one of the curious carts that would pass by would be an insect vendor. An assortment of eight or ten different kinds of insects available, pre-cooked, but ready to be reheated. Scorpions on a stick always just seemed to be a show for the tourists. Last summer I realized it wasn’t. I caught a black scorpion in our yard and was told to keep in for my father-in-law, so he could eat it later. Then that same evening, some older “cousins” got excited about the scorpion eating and that turned into a couple hours-long scorpion hunt. Yes, people do eat scorpions and it is not just for show. The “cousins” said scorpions taste delicious. I am not ready for that yet, but crickets are a good introduction.
I still remember the first time I really dug into or “tucked” into a bag of grasshoppers. Fried and crunchy. Some people prefer them without the legs. They are grasshoppers, so the legs are pretty easy to snap off. I had eaten silkworm larvae in South Korea, so I did not consider this much more significant. Silkworm larvae are just kind of gross, gritty with a bit of a funky aroma. Imagine just having finished eaten a plain hamburger and potato chips, and then burping and breathing into your mouth or like you do when you want to “internally” check your breath after that meal, maybe something like that.
I ate what I would guess to be a personal-sized potato chip bag of grasshoppers. And it was not much of anything. I am already sitting at a bar having a drink and what is more normal than having a salty snack. It seemed pretty normal. What was not normal, and I apologize if it offends, but what was not normal was the tremendous amount of flatulence, gas, farting, I had later. This off-putting event several hours later after eating the grasshoppers, put me off of grasshoppers for several years.
Well, as I am apt to do, I wanted to try it again. And now that I was with my wife, there would be a little bit better quality control. I do not seek it out, but I will eat it if it’s around. The dry months of the winter in the Northern hemisphere, can turn a bit chilly in in some places in Thailand, maybe around 50⁰ F (10⁰ C). Nothing cold by western standards, but appreciated after the months of intense heat.
The winter months of December, January and February are still very dry in the community where my wife is from. And although the dryness persists, the colder temperatures do not. When the two to four weeks of cooler winter temperatures start to end, people get their bug catching setups ready.
They usually use blue- or purple-colored light setups, something about the insects being attracted to those colors more. All I know is, anywhere there is a light source, regardless of color, there is a bug diving into it, quite irritating when you are wearing a headlamp. With the bug catching setup, the light hangs above a plastic tarp or other temporary barrier and beneath the barrier are wide-mouth tubs filled with water. The insects go dive-bombing into the light, they hit the barrier and hopefully fall into the bucket, where they have difficulty getting out. During the night and also again in the morning, the bugs are scooped out and sorted. The inedible insects are left for chickens. The edible ones are processed.
And it is a pretty simple process. It begins with washing and sorting, as I mentioned. After the washing the bugs are given a boil. I assume to kill any bacteria and give the insects a good cleaning. My theory is that it also helps to remove some of the flatulence-producing parts of the insects, whatever that may be.
After the cleaning the bugs are deep fried in oil, drained and given a little salt for taste. The grasshoppers are the ones I focus on eating and they are actually pretty good. Certainly hardier and healthier than a potato chip. And if you like Keto, or want a different low protein snack with a little bit of a crunch and some chewing, but not chewy. A little beefy, with a touch of herb or grass, which is what grasshoppers are primarily eating. Then maybe try out grasshoppers for your next high protein snack.
People eat them as part of a meal, too. The Thai people that I know are very accustomed to eating home-style meals. I love the experience, too. A variety of dishes that family members will bring to the table or exchange with one another. Thai people do eat similar things very often, but this exchange of food helps vary that and I believe essentially represents what I love about Thailand and the Thais, variety and sharing.