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September 11, 2005
Piles and piles of fried insects will disappear in front of the very startled Western eyes. Thai buyers and Western overlookers look at each other bemused and puzzled. The Thais scorn the Western reluctance to sample what they consider a Thai delicacy (and an undisputed source of animal protein), and the Westerners have a mixed reaction in the boundaries of disgust and disbelief.
I suppose the cultural gap prevents the two groups of understanding each other.
I must admit that on my first visit to Bangkok 4 years ago, my gut reaction was a mixture of disgust and disbelief.
After several nights of watching Thai young people eating pounds of insects, I decided to approach a street vendor and ask hesitantly (pointing to the cockroaches): "How much are they?" A prompt response from a language savvy vendor was: "The big ones or the small ones?" (pointing at two different piles with two distinctly different sizes) At that point, I burst into rude (I suppose) laughter and ceased my first attempt to sample the impossible.
Two years later, as I was watching another vendor equally busy selling her insects, our eyes met, and she somehow guessed my mix of hesitation and temptation. She smiled, picked a four-legged insect from a pile, and offered it to me. In a naive manner, I asked: "Is this the tastiest one?" She smiled and nodded obligingly, and I hesitantly extented my hand to pick the fried insect. After all, it was a free try. Spyro, from behind, shouted: "John, you can buy as much as you like--I shall pay for it." While I chewed the insect, she kept smiling, and I realised that although it was not the best meal I'd ever had, it had a rather neutral taste with a nutty flavour.
My hesitations well and truly over, I proceeded to buy a whole bag of a mixture of everything and sampled them one by one. I must admit, I was too much of a novice to appreciate the subtle differences between species, but I could see why the Thais were buying them. Yet I failed to convince even one of the six members of our group to sample an insect.
From journal Bangkok - The Heart of Southeast Asia
February 2, 2004
From journal Bangkok
July 23, 2000
From journal Khao San Road