Eating Insects in Phuket

Phuket's Edible Bugs

Eating insects in Thailand is one of the traditional challenges visitors face during a good night out, particularly in places like Bangkok’s Khao San Road and Phuket’s Bangla Road. However, edible bugs are also a popular choice for local Thais, being a light and surprisingly healthy snack. Once you get past the instinctive revulsion of putting creepy crawlies anywhere near your mouth, some are even quite moreish.

To help you on this unique culinary adventure, we’ve prepared the following list of the edible insects available in Phuket. You can find them at some of the night markets and a few established stalls around the island, but mostly from wandering vendors, especially near nightlife hotspots. We hope this information will give you some idea of what to expect when you take that first nervous nibble, as well as helping you pick the ones you’re more likely to successfully stomach!
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Grasshoppers (Takatan)

This is probably the most approachable option, when it comes to eating insects in Phuket, because they are the least gooey. Deep fried in soy sauce, the crispy little critters mostly just taste of salt, with a bitter aftertaste reminiscent of old green tea. Try to think of them as basically the same as ready salted crisps or salted peanuts and you’ll find them surprisingly moreish. Admittedly, picking grasshopper legs out of your teeth does take a little getting used to.

Red Ants (Mod Daeng)

If you’ve ever felt the sharp, painful sting of a red ant bite, this option will come as sweet revenge. This is not a dish best served cold, though, and is also not especially sweet. Best eaten by the spoonful, because of their small size, they have a soft, slightly chewy texture, kind of like cold rice. As they are usually fried in soy sauce and oil, that’s pretty much all they taste of, making them one of the more palatable choices.

Red Ant Eggs (Kai Mod Daeng)

Having enacted petty vengeance on the adult ants, you can then inflict your wroth on the next generation! Usually served as part of a salad, they have the general appearance of rice, with the same soft and faintly chewy texture as the grown-up ants. Interestingly, the taste is noticeably different, being somewhat sour. As they are served as part of a proper dish instead of as a snack, ant eggs are not generally available on market stalls and vendor carts, but can be found at small, extremely local restaurants.

Silk Worms (Mhon Mhai)

Quite a popular snack among Thais, they are often confused for maggots by those who are new to edible insects. Of course, knowing that they’re actually where your new Thai silk scarf came from doesn’t make them any more appetising to look at! As they are usually fried with kaffir leaves, they have a strong citrus flavour, with a bitter aftertaste provided by the soft, gooey filling beneath the crispy outer shell.

Crickets (Jing Reed)

These look similar to grasshoppers, but they taste very different. They could give you a nasty shock when you take your first bite and find your mouth suddenly flooded with the fatter innards. The soft centre gives them a bitter, soapy aftertaste.

Mini Crickets (Jing Reed Khai)

Mini crickets are the half-way point between grasshoppers and full-size crickets. They still have the soft centre of their bigger brothers, but they also have the lighter flavour of the grasshoppers, tasting mostly of the kaffir leaves and oil they are fried with. They are a good introduction to the gooier choices of edible bugs, for those who want to up the ante.

Bamboo Worms (Rod Duan)

These are possibly the most popular edible insects among locals, though not so much with tourists. The result is that they can be found on almost any stand and wandering vendor’s cart. Like the smaller silk worms, they have a crispy outer shell with a soft inside. The flavours are a little different, in this case, being salty at first, with a cheesy aftertaste.

Scorpions (Mang Pawng)

Scorpions are not an especially common snack around Phuket, but they can be found if you look around enough. Mostly bite-size, you can find quite big bugs on skewers, in rare cases. Either way, they are usually quite chewy under their crisp outer shell, with a slightly bitter, off taste, like old milk. Fortunately, the sting in the tail is always removed, so you don’t get a painful aftertaste.

Sago Grubs (Tua Duang)

These are the unsettling large larvae of the Asian palm weevil and are almost certainly one of the most challenging insects to eat. Those who can get past the really unpleasant appearance, however, will find a very meaty consistency and a flavour a little bit like bacon. While they are usually served roasted, those who want to really challenge themselves can try them raw.

Giant Water Bugs (Mang Da Na)

Probably the biggest bug you’re going to find on offer, it is undoubtedly the hardest to eat. Not only is it a rather disgusting critter to look at, but you then have to pull its head off to get at the “meat” within the tough chitinous shell. Those brave enough to manage this will find that the taste is actually pretty good, with a meaty consistency and a smell kind of like bubble gum.

Best Place to Eat Insects in Phuket

The best-known vendor of fried insects in Phuket is Khun Beum, who has a regular pitch in Saphan Hin Park, on the southern edge of Phuket Town. A construction worker by day, he takes his sideline seriously. The first thing he told us was: “I have a reputation to maintain. The secret is in the fresh oil. I never use old oil to fry the insects.” Some insects, such as crickets, are caught in the wild while others, including silk worms and grasshoppers, are raised on insect farms in the north and northeast of Thailand. When the insects are fried to perfection, Khun Beum scoops them out with a draining scoop. One scoopful – between five and 10 insects, depending on their size – sells for 20 baht.

  • Location: Saphan Hin Circle, Phuket Town
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