Thai cuisine is known as one of the best in the world. Enthusiastically, Europeans eat whether here or at home in a Thai restaurant full of joy Tom Yam Gung, Chicken Cashew Nuts and Pad Thai.
However, there are also a lot of Thai dishes where only their names evoke real disgust. Nick Reitmeier, the purchasing chief of the Central- and Tops- supermarkets, agreed to be our “groceries stuntman”. Armed with a pocket bottle of bitters, he combed through Thailand’s supermarkets and restaurants in search of the more unusual delicacies.
Ant eggs are really tiny, hardly bigger than salt cores. Tiny larvae emerge out of them and then they grow and eventually develop a pupal stage up to adult ants.
The egg-shaped white cocoons of 4-6 mm in length that you can buy in Thailand on the markets, are often misunderstood as “ant eggs”.
In Europe, the pet shop offers large quantities of dried or frozen ant pupae as fish or bird food.
In Thailand they are for example processed in a kind of “Tom Yam” soup.
Nick Reitmeiers’ comment on that: „Surprisingly not bad at all. Cooked in the soup they have a slightly limonite amd sour taste. The consistency is a bit unpleasant because the pupae explode in your mouth like a grape. In addition to that, it took me some time to get used to it that out of the cracked pupae some ants looked at me.”
Durian is a spiky fruit whose name comes from the Malay or Indonesian word “duri” which means sting or thorn. It’s also often called stink or cheese fruit. The fruit is about the size of a coconut, is yellow to green colored and sustains about 1 cm long spines. The fruit interior is divided into four to six segments. If it comes straight from the tree, the fruit smells and tastes good but it develops within a few days an intolerable smell and taste for all non-Thai people. Descriptions of the taste involve cheese, feces and even decay.
Nick Reitmeiers comments: “I can go with fresh, young fruits. I guess you either love the durian or you hate it. It’s not that kind of taste I like though. However, I really like it as dried crisps or ice cream.”
Although frogs are eaten in Europe as well – especially in the French cuisine it is considered as a delicacy – nevertheless, it is a taboo for many people. On the Thai markets, frogs are usually sold alive in nets – alike the oranges in our homes. But you can also find them already slaughtered.
While in Europe only the frogs’ legs are eaten, in the Thai cuisine frogs are also served as a whole and usually stuffed. Nick Reitmeiers’ comment on that: „Well. Nothing to complain about. Tastes like chicken.”
Insects have meanwhile become some kind of a tourist attraction. Especially in the area of Sukhumvit and Khao San Road you can often see a crowd of tourists around some small rolling stalls. The photo motive is so popular that some retailers now require 100 baht for photography. The photo motive is so popular that some retailers now demand about 100 Baht for photography. Just a few curious ones actually try. On offer are mostly grasshoppers, larvae, cockroaches and water beetles (which are often mistakenly considered as cockroaches). The insects are fried.
Nick Reitmeiers’ comment on that: “The grasshopper really surprised me. Salty and very spicy. Tastes a bit like a pretzel stick. You just don’t want to look at it – even though the taste is not that bad. The worms are also very crunchy like salty pastries and not at all limp.”
Century eggs, hundred-year-old eggs or Chinese eggs are a delicacy of the Chinese cuisine.
For the preparation, raw duck eggs are inlaid in a mush of charcoal, burnt lime, salt and water for about three months. During this time, the egg white turns into a gelatinous, brown mass and the yolk gets a curdy consistency and turns green. Century eggs have a cheesy taste and smell and they are very durable. They are served as an appetizer or snack together with soy sauce, vinegar and ginger.
Nick Reitmeier comments: „The smell and the look are disgusting. For Europeans it’s just gross. But I have to admit that it still tastes like an egg. With a bit of rice and fish sauce it is quite eatable.”
In fact, the afterbirth of a cow is offered on Thailand’s markets. For most of the people, the idea to eat something like that is extremely nauseous. Cows would also eat the afterbirth if they were allowed to – although they usually don’t eat any meat.
It should be particularly nutritious. Our tester Nick Reitmeier has bravely tried it in form of a strong beef broth.
Nick Reitmeiers‘ comment on that: „Funnily enough, that was one of the best beef soups that I’ve ever had. The placenta is apparently very comprehensive and such a good ingredient for a broth. The meat itself is barely eatable because it is very tough like a rind. ”
Best news first: A jellyfish has absolutely no calories! Furthermore, it is neither slimy nor see-through – quite the reverse! Mostly the jellyfish is sold cooked or dried. The meat is white and firm. Nick has tried jellyfish as a salad. It is quite similarly to the Thai seafood salad.
Nick Reitmeiers‘ comment: „The jellyfish tasted really good. Before cooking, it was washed several times. In the salad it has a gelatinous consistency. The taste can be described as sour.”
Cobras are elapids that occur very often in Thailand. The most striking feature of a cobra is the expandable neck shield which is spread out in case of a threat. The Thai-Chinese believe that eating a cobra gives you strength and energy – especially in case of your sexuality. It is considered as an aphrodisiac. However, our tester only reports about the culinary point of view.
Nick Reitmeier comments: „The meat is good – it tastes like chicken. This time I ate it fried which was quite tough. I’ve tried it once in China as a soup – that definitely tasted better. By cooking it in the soup, the meat gets very soft.
Scorpions belong to the arachnids. There are only a few species whose sting can be deadly to humans. But for many people that’s not reason enough to eat them right away. The scorpions are available at the same stalls where the insects are sold. They are especially for backpackers the ultimate test of courage and a popular photo motive. The scorpions are fried and not poisonous at all.
Nick Reitmeier comments: „Scorpions taste just like insects – like salty pastries. But the carapace is very hard. If you just bite on it, you might have a lot of sharp splints in your mouth – not cool at all!”
Pla Ra is a kind of fermented fish and especially in the Northeast of Thailand – in Isaan – very popular. There, you can often find it in the Som Tam salad (papaya salad). Pla Ra is produced by placing the fermented fish, salt and roasted rice in a pot for three months. And that’s just how it tastes and smells. Not for sensitive noses at all.
Nick Reitmeiers‘ comment on that: „Just horrible. The most disgusting thing I’ve ever had in my mouth. The sauce itself is maybe bearable. But the fish pieces are really bad. The consistency can be compared to leather and the taste is just pure decay. Worst thing ever!