When you’re traveling abroad, is sampling the local cuisine part of the experience for you? Do you eat a little curry and instantly feel worldly, or try a dish that’s spicy and pat yourself on the back for being so exotic? Well ditch the amateur hour, because if you’re a truly grizzled world traveler, it’s time to dig into a slightly more dangerous dish – insects.
Yeah, I’m not joking. In fact, many cultures around the world have included insects and other seemingly-strange creatures that fly, crawl, buzz, swim and slither into their palate. Often, it’s out of necessity, as large populations of people need to be fed among limited resources in many developing countries.
What do Insects Taste Like?
In fact, I first was exposed to the practice of eating insects and other odd bites in Cambodia, where the whole national was literally starving during their brutal Khmer Rouge genocide from 1975-1978, and food was short in subsequent decades. But these days, the locals still enjoy some of those bites. It’s also good business, as you’ll see street food carts across Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam with these critters for sale, designed to shock tourists. They even come with signs that insist you pay $1 (or the equivalent in their local currency) just for taking a photo, since so many tourists stick their heads in there are start snapping photos but don’t actually buy and eat.
I’ve tried these at various times, but one time while living in Cambodia, I decided to conduct a fundraiser to help a local orphanage. So, I put it on Facebook that I would try one of each of the offerings from one of these “insect carts” on the street in Phnom Penh if people donated.
With a beer in hand to wash it down, I did just that – and managed not to puke or get sick. Here is what I tried, and my impressions:
These were deep fried like most of the snacks on this cart, and I found these to be one of the best and actually tasted pretty good, like pretzels but less salty!
Really strong taste that’s pretty foul. Remember to pull the wings off first and ask which parts are edible!
Not sure what kind of beetles these were but the taste wasn’t good, nor was it offensive. But the hard crunch is not appealing!
I ate these but I can’t tell you what they taste like since I swallowed the little thing whole. I just couldn’t bring myself to bite down in the middle of it!
The same goes for maggots, which were NOT deep fried!
They had a few types of mystery eggs, which super gross you out if you think about what you’re eating.
I’ve eaten snake several times, which comes barbecued on a skewer. It’s really pretty good!
Spiders are a delicacy in some Asian countries, but mostly the bigger ones like tarantulas. They don’t taste strongly either way and are usually deep fried, too.
These little suckers are delicacies in France! Oui oui!
This was the last thing I ate off the cart, as I saved the worst for last. They told me that I couldn’t just eat the whole big sucker, as its shell is too hard. So, I had to turn it over and take a bite out of the softer belly. Noxious green guts and liquid oozed into my mouth, with the taste of garbage left in the sun mixed! I came damn close to puking but kept it together and got it down by drinking enough of my trusty beer.
I’ll definitely eat a cricket or some barbecued snake from time to time, but one cockroach is one too many for this lifetime!