Since early 2015, Noey and Peter of Instagram’s Vietnomnom have explored the very best of Vietnam’s food, and wandered to neighboring countries for tasty fare further afield. In a series documenting the very best eats in the region, we teamed up with them for Asian Food Adventures to discover the top dishes and treats in our destinations – all with the help of their yummy Instagram food feed!
The tuk tuk comes to a screeching halt. The rainbow strobe lights flicker off as we stumble onto the hot Bangkok pavement. Our tour guide, Na, points to the cart directly in front of us, above which a single fluorescent bulb glows. Four trays perch, in a row, atop a rickety bike. We inch forward.
I’ll try anything once, and bugs are no exception. So one by one, I place each bug on my tongue, throw it back, chew, crunch, and gulp. From the maggot to the grasshopper, the bugs progress from slimy to crispy, with every sensation of texture and flavour in between.
Na looks on with bright eyes and a big smile as I chomp my way through the insect kingdom. She speaks about her childhood growing up in the north of Thailand, where bugs are a large part of the diet. What did you have for your after-school snacks growing up? Na had bugs.
Most Westerners I know balk at the idea of tasting bugs. The “gross factor”, I think, is what gets in the way of adventurous bug eating. Especially in the West, we think of bugs as icky pests that we’d never willingly eat, unless we were a contestant on Fear Factor or were being paid to do so. But traveling is all about adventure and trying something new, is it not? Asian Food Adventures is certainly all about getting outside of our culinary comfort zone.
In our little foray into bug eating, we came to define the “bug eating pro” as the following:
No swallowing without taking a bite.
No immediately chugging water afterwards.
Doing it with a SMILE!
So, without further ado, these are our top tips for eating bugs like a pro – and getting a little taste of the weirder side of Asia along the way.
Ease your mind with the knowledge that nothing lasts forever.
Don’t love the taste? Who cares? You can go get yourself a mango sticky rice for dessert.
Obtain photographic evidence.
Not only will you be able to show all of your friends and family at home what a total foodie you are, but you’ll gain bragging rights for life. “Oh, you ate a chicken heart? Good for you, I ATE A BUG!”
Try to put your finger on what’s making it weird in the first place.
Oh, what’s that? Cultural norms? Isn’t eating shrimp or pork ribs or chicken wings just as weird, if you really think about it? That’s right. Throw those cultural norms out the window.
Work your way from most to least scary.
Starting with the maggot and making my way to the grasshopper was one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made. Best for last, am I right?
Think about how good this is for your hair and nails.
Protein makes you beautiful!
You’re saving yourself from your entomophobia.
You know what a drag it is to see a bug right before climbing into bed? Well, with every bug you eat, there’s one less bug in this world to creep you out.
Embrace the food chain.
Remember that you are bigger than them. This is only natural.
Embrace local life.
Chances are the bugs you eat in Asia will be deliciously spiced and seasoned, and you’d be silly to turn that down. Be culturally sensitive and understand that people all over the world eat bugs because they are an inexpensive and readily available source of protein. Be polite and don’t ask for a cheeseburger.
Make it a competition.
First one to eat 10 crickets wins. Winner gets to eat a grasshopper.
Good luck, my fellow foodies! Enjoy those bugs.
Looking for some less adventurous foodie adventures in Asia? Our brand new Local Life tours get you closer to the heart of Asia’s culinary culture – but without too many creepy crawlies.