The best way to conquer your fears is to face them – or eat them. In Southeast Asia, there’s no shortage of weird, wonderful and sometimes terrifying dishes to try.
Fried arachnids, creepy-crawly snacks and bird embryos are all on the menu in Southeast Asia. Which of these delights will you dare to taste as you backpack through one of the world’s most fascinating regions?
If you’ve ever stayed on Khao San Road – Bangkok’s famous backpacker street – you’ve probably seen displays of deep-fried scorpions. Yes, some scorpions are poisonous. No, eating them won’t kill you.
The scorpion’s venom is neutralised when it’s fried (alive) in boiling oil. Sounds disgusting, but fried scorpions are a popular snack in many parts of Thailand, China, Vietnam and Laos. Some believe scorpions are great for male virility. Need any more reasons to feast on this scary arachnid?
While we’re talking about scary arachnid dishes, let’s discuss a Cambodian favourite – the fried tarantula. For arachnophobes, the tarantula epitomises fear. For many Southeast Asians, this eight-legged creature is a mouth-watering snack, especially when fried with salt, garlic and oil. There’s nothing a good seasoning can’t fix.
Rats have a terrible reputation for spreading diseases and being unwanted pests. In Thailand, rats are becoming a delicacy – they’re often more expensive than pork or chicken.
Only rats that are caught in rice fields are worthy of being eaten. You won’t be served with a plate of rats that once scoured the streets of Bangkok. The meat is apparently very tasty and unique. We’ll let you be the judge of that.
You can’t complain about meat going to waste if you’re not prepared to eat a dish of crunchy chicken’s feet. In Thailand, China and Laos, people know how to get the most from their chicken.
Chicken’s feet are either deep-fried or barbequed. In the northeast of Thailand (Isaan), spicy chicken feet salad is a popular meal, served with tomatoes, green chillies, fish sauce and coriander. If you’d like to ease your way into eating chicken’s feet, consider adding one or two to your noodle soup.
You aren’t a real intrepid foodie until you’ve tasted balut, a cooked-alive developing bird embryo which looks about as pretty as it sounds. Popular in the Philippines, Balut can either be a duck or chicken embryo seasoned with garlic, salt, vinegar and chilli. In addition to being a rich source of protein, balut is said to be a powerful aphrodisiac (no scientific proof as of yet).
Deep-fried silkworms, termites, crickets, beetles, grasshoppers and even cockroaches are popular in many parts of Asia. You’ll find street vendors selling a selection of insect nibbles throughout Thailand. You might not think fried bugs sound appealing, but they’ve been popular for centuries with rice field workers.
According to many scientists, switching from livestock to insects for your protein could help reduce the effects of global warming. Do your part to save our planet by frying up some delicious giant water bugs (a dish called ‘Malaeng Da Na’ in Thai).
If the wonders of Southeast Asian cuisine have got you excited for a real adventure, take a look at our huge range of tours in Asia. From island-hopping in Thailand to the local cuisine of Laos, this vibrant part of the world will make you want to come back time and again.