…the University of Khon Kaen in northeastern Thailand has pioneered techniques of farming locusts and crickets, while an institute of technology in Sakon Nakhon has developed new ways of canning insects.
But it is not only locusts and crickets that appeal to the Thais. Silkworms, water bugs, grasshoppers, ants, ant eggs, bamboo worms and scorpions are also becoming a big part of the Thai kitchen.
Ants are said to give a sour taste, replacing lemon in salads. Locusts – and there are several varieties – are fried until they crackle. The chef then sprays them with soy sauce and hot pepper, occasionally adding monosodium glutamate. The female maengda, a type of water bug that looks disturbingly similar to a cockroach, is eaten plain but is also used in a variety of pastes, including shrimp paste.
Tourists in Bangkok are often surprised to see what they think is a fried cockroach – the maengda – being offered for sale. And then they watch with horror as an aficionado breaks off the legs and head of the bug before placing the abdomen between his teeth and squeezing the pasty soy-tasting interiors into his mouth with relish…
Recent research by the Thai Farmers Research Center shows that a large cricket delivers more protein (20.6 grams) per 100 grams than beef (18.8 grams), pork (14.1 grams), chicken (20.2 grams) or chicken eggs (12.7 grams). Only catfish delivers more protein per gram.