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Crispy or Squishy? - A Beginner's Guide to the Edible Insects of Thailand

By Edited Dec 20, 2013 7 27

Bugs, bugs, bugs!

There are over one hundred types of edible insects (or insects considered edible by Thais at least) on sale from street vendors and market stalls throughout Thailand.  And while there are plenty of other unusual things to do, the sight of three or four backpackers huddled around an insect vendor, staring wide-eyed at the array of bugs for sale, is a common one.

“You’re not going to eat it, are you?” “Eughh, that’s disgusting!”  “What’s it like?”  “ “Oh my God, I can see the little eyes! GROSS!”

Have you ever wondered what all those bugs taste like?  Do you want to impress your friends by tossing a handful of grasshoppers straight into your mouth with out a moment’s hesitation?  Freak them out by biting a beetle in two?  If you answered yes to any of these, read on.


The Guide

Each insect in this Beginner’s Guide to Edible Insects is accompanied by a photo so you can easily recognise it.  Each entry is listed with its common English name, its Thai counterpart, and a rating from 1-10 in two extremely important categories;  crispness and squishiness

So, do you want to know which insects taste better than others?  Which one crunch and which ones don’t?  Well, what are you waiting for? Jump right in, and let the insect munching begin.

Grasshoppers (tak-a-ten)

Edible Insects of Thailand: Fried Grasshoppers
Grasshoppers are one of the most commonly eaten bugs in Thailand and are sold throughout the country.  They are deep-fried in vegetable oil, leaving them very crispy but without any real distinctive flavour.  Deep-fried grasshoppers are seasoned with salt, and are enjoyed as a snack by many Thais over a couple of cold beers.  A bag of the crispy little buggers sells for around 15 baht (50 cents). 

Crispometer         10/10

Squishometer       0/10


Bamboo worms (non pai)

Edible Insects of Thailand: Bamboo Worms(78213)

Bamboo worms are probably the least threatening of all Thailand’s edible insects.  This is due to the fact that they look like Cheetos or similar-shaped potato chips.  Coincidentally, they also have a slight “corn” flavour to them.  Non pai, also known as Lot-duan (fast train), are shallow fried and seasoned with Thai pepper and salt.  A ladle full of these extremely edible insects should set you back about 20 baht (60 cents).


Crispometer         9/10

Squishometer       0/10


Silkworm Pupae (non mai)

Edible Insects of Thailand: Silkworm Pupae
Silkworm pupae are a popular snack in the Northeast of Thailand and other silk producing areas.  Like most edible insects in Thailand, they are deep-fried and salted.   They look rather like short, fat bamboo worms, but their texture is very different.  While some silkworm pupae get a little crispy, most of them remain quite squishy on the inside.


Crispometer         4/10

Squishometer       7/10


Crickets (jing-ree)

Thais eat many species of cricket.  In fact, eating crickets has become so popular that some Thai farmers have started raising them to supply the insect vendors, or even sell at the market themselves.

Edible Insects of Thailand: Fried Crickets

Crickets are usually shallow-fried for less than a minute, but can also be deep-fried.  Shallow fried crickets are soft with a very mild nutty flavour.  They are quite tasty and are considered highly nutritious, as they provide some much-needed protein in the diets of rural Thai families.  Deep-fried crickets are crisper but have little or no flavour, and less nutritional value. 

Whichever way they are cooked, crickets are one of the most popular edible insects in Thailand.  They are sold by the bag, or sometimes in small Styrofoam dishes, for around 20 baht a serving.


Crispometer         2/10

Squishometer       5/10


Giant Water-Beetle (meng-dah)

The giant water-beetle is without a doubt “The Daddy” of all of Thailand’s edible insects.  It looks like a kind of giant cockroach and can grow up to 3 inches long

Edible Insects of Thailand: Giant Water-Bugs
The trick to eating these enormous bugs is not to chuck it into your mouth and chew for all you’re worth.  Doing this will most likely result in cuts to the inside of your mouth from the sharp legs and antennae, leaving you with a mouthful of semi-crushed unpalatable armour.  The correct way to eat a meng-dah is to first remove its legs.  Then pull its head an upper torso from the rest of its body.  After discarding the head, remove the wings from the back of the bug and then pop the sac/torso into your mouth.

Thailand’s giant water-beetle is very chewy, rather like a strip of dried meat.  Males are smaller than females, their scent is stronger, and they are considered more flavourful.  This leads to their use as an ingredient in a type of pungent chilli sauce called nam prik meng-dah.  Male water-beetles are also more expensive than their female counterparts at around 10 baht (30 cents) per head.


Crispometer 2/10

Squishometer 2/10


So, what now?

Now that you’ve finished A Beginner’s Guide to Edible Insects, I feel that you are equipped with a basic understanding of what to expect when confronted with a tray of deep-fried creepy-crawlies.  Perhaps next time you’re in Thailand, you will have the confidence to munch away on a bag of bugs,  to the amazement of your awestruck travel companions.  



Jan 10, 2012 1:24am
Hi Redyelruc
This is a GREAT article (as well as revolting!) I LOVE the crispometer and the squishometer.
Well done on a really good read.
Jan 10, 2012 6:10am
Thanks Tina.

Trust me, when you are about to eat an insect, the only thing you can think is "Crispy or Squishy, crispy or squishy?"
Jan 10, 2012 4:55am
Man I remember when I was in Thailand and I saw these bugs all over the place for sale. I kinda regret not eating one. Haha.

Jan 10, 2012 6:09am
Next time maybe.

Thanks for reading.
Jan 10, 2012 5:28am
Great article, I'm hungry now!
Jan 10, 2012 6:08am
Go outside and have a look round the garden.
Jan 10, 2012 11:55am
Thanks...Your making me hungry!
Jan 10, 2012 12:25pm
When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand the villagers would dig a small hole or trench filled with water and place a fluorescent light over it at night to trap the Meng Dah.
Jan 10, 2012 6:36pm
Yeah! Rural village life in Thailand is so different to the one in the glossy brochures and the resorts on Phuket. Catching frogs by moonlight is another great experience to be had in the villages.
Jan 10, 2012 12:59pm
I adore reading articles with unique formatting and concepts. The experience of eating insects must be pretty odd at first, but I figure it would turn out to be pretty normal. In the USA it's not really a popular thing to do, but understandably in other cultures it is completely normal! When you think about it, what is the real difference between insects and eating a fish or a mammal? Not much really. Interesting and amusing article! Good job!
Jan 10, 2012 6:48pm
Thanks for reading. Edible insects aren't even the strangest thing that's eaten over here. How about BBQ field rat, red ant eggs, raw beef, live shrimps...the list is endless. More articles on the way.
Jan 11, 2012 4:04am
Great article, very creative!
Jan 11, 2012 11:36pm
This was an amazing piece about edible insectes (Thai or not) and deserving of its 19K+ views.

I think the best part was you took the mystique out of insect consumption. We've been eating grubs and such for eons, and bugs have the highest percentage of protein to body mass ratio of any comestible.

Finally, I'm giving you a thumbs up on this for two reasons: 1) it was a greatly informative article as well as entertaining, and 2) regardless of the "science" behind it, the inclusion of the "crispometer" and "squishometer" data was hilarious (and creative)!!
Jan 12, 2012 7:18am
Thanks for reading and thanks for the thumbs up.

By the way, the data for the crispometer and squishometer was collected the hard way. And I discovered that I really don't like the silkworm pupae. Squishy bugs get a thumbs down from me.
Jan 12, 2012 10:48pm
Then you win the big cojones award,sir!
Jan 12, 2012 12:21pm
Very informative read. Regardless of squishy or crisp, which is invaluable data to have for bug eating, I don't think I could get past the ick factor! If I had no choice, I would definitely go with crispy insects.
Jan 12, 2012 4:50pm
Good choice. Thanks for reading.
Jan 12, 2012 3:52pm
Jan 16, 2012 3:23pm
Wow that was a different read, well done. I have only ever tried eating crickets...squishy(they weren't deep fried)!
Jan 17, 2012 11:44pm
Grasshoppers are good. They taste like chicken when fried. :)
Feb 16, 2012 12:23am
Great read, very entertaining. Grasshoppers are okay, I just can't quite get the worm fry into my liking :)
Feb 16, 2012 11:39am
Great read, I'm going to Thailand next month but I don't think I'll be trying any of these :)
Feb 24, 2012 10:14pm
I'm sure you'll have a great time. You should try the grasshoppers with some beer. You'd be surprised how good they are.
Thanks for reading and enjoy your trip.
Feb 17, 2012 8:25pm
Really interesting and well put!
Feb 21, 2012 3:21am
Great article but I won't be eating bugs anytime soon, crispy or squishy :)
Feb 24, 2012 7:37pm
Ha ha great article! Were they all equally creepy to eat or would a creepometer be justified?
Feb 24, 2012 10:13pm
That would be a good addition. The meng-dah was actually the creepiest to eat because of it's resemblance to a cockroach.
Thanks for reading.
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