Bugs ‘n Things

Of all the foods to be found in South-east Asia, I imagine bugs and insects are probably the least palatable to western tastes. I’ve tried a few in my time for the novelty of the experience.

In Thailand, canny entrepreneurs often set up shop in touristy areas, hoping to lure young, possibly drunk holiday-makers into trying out these local delicacies, or charging the less reckless money for taking pictures of their ghastly produce.

Some of these bugs taste better than others or, I should say, some are a little less disgusting. But they all share a common property: they are almost impossible to swallow, sticking in the throat and requiring copious amounts of liquid to wash them down.

insect_food_stallA market stall displaying an array of… creatures

Fried Scorpion is an actual dish from Shandong, China. If you visit Koh San Road, Bangkok, you are sure to be offered one of these delightful specimens for between 60 and 100 baht, depending on its size and ‘quality’. I suggest you purchase a small one, simply because it is less likely to end up on the pavement along with your dinner and any drinks you have recently partaken of.

In terms of scorpion venom, fried scorpion is safe to eat. This is both because venom is not poison – venom is harmless unless it enters the bloodstream directly – and because the venom is neutralised in the cooking process. In terms of food hygiene, I’m not so sure. Not surprisingly, there doesn’t appear to be very much demand for this particular commodity and I suspect scorpions are often past their sell-by date before consumption.

Perhaps that was the issue with mine. At first it wasn’t so bad, crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle. And then the taste of that internal goo registered just as I was about to swallow. I almost choked, but managed to get it down with the help of a few glugs of beer. I had to stay rigidly still for the next five minutes, desperately swallowing saliva (you know the runny stuff that is usually a precursor to vomit). In the end, I got away with it.

Eating a ScorpionEating a Scorpion on Koh San Road, Bangkok

Scorpion is not the vilest thing I’ve ever tasted, though it definitely runs a close second. If you’re squeamish, you might want to consider scrolling down and reading another post rather than continuing with this one. You’ve been warned.

Some years ago, I was in Koh Phangan partying with a group which contained, among others, a young French guy, a ladyboy and several Thai girls. It was getting pretty late when the French guy suggested we all go to his bar and hang out there for a while. We all thought this a wonderful idea.

Several whiskeys later, a Thai girl suggested a game whereby we had to eat things blindfolded. I volunteered to go first, thinking she would give me a hot chilli which would cause some discomfort for me and much hilarity for everyone else.

The girls covered my eyes with a towel and instructioned to bite down hard and chew whatever they put in my mouth. This tied in perfectly with my ‘chilli theory’ – chewing would cause maximum effect, of course. I acquiesced and the object was placed between my teeth. Crunch! Immediately upon this action, I heard shrieks of laughter. A foul liquid hit the back of my throat.

A revolting horror enveloped my person. I tore off the towel, spat out the offending morsel and charged out of the bar. I only had a brief glimpse, but there was no mistaking it. A cockroach.

I vomited till I could vomit no more, then I just wept and dry-heaved. I could still hear high-pitched laughter inside – the bitches.

I still have trust issues.