While many of you travelers out there may consider yourselves adventurous eaters, taking a trip to Thailand will really put that to the test. If you’re thinking, I can handle those stinky durian fruits that they don’t let you take on the subway, then you’re in for a big surprise. The strange and exotic foods of Thailand go a whole lot deeper than just odorous fruits.
You may have heard about tourists eating insects like scorpions or cockroaches on Bangkok’s famous Khao San Road. But there are plenty of unthinkable foods that are actually part of an average Thai person’s diet. As you’ll see, the Thai population has proven to be very resourceful when it comes to finding sources of sustenance. It seems that they’ll eat pretty much anything that’s edible, even if it’s creepy, crawly, slimy, or grimy.
If you end up hanging around with some locals during your trip to Thailand, you’d better believe they’re going to ask you to try all of these exotic snacks that’ll make you squirm. So to prepare you, here are nine examples of strange Thai food:
1. Rod Duan (Bamboo Worms)
For most of us, eating a maggot is quite simply out of the question. But if you’re Thai, you probably have no problem chomping down on a couple hundred bamboo worms in between sips of Singha beer.
You can find these creepy-crawlies being served roadside in most Thai cities. Typically they’re deep-fried and salted, so if you close your eyes, you might just be able to pretend you’re eating Tostitos. However, if you want to go real Thai-style, you can pick them straight off the tree and eat them live and raw. Probably better to try the fried ones first.
If you end up liking these little fried snacks, don’t go crazy. Eating too many fried bamboo worms can take a serious toll on your digestive system. Plus, most of the toilets in Thailand are squat toilets. Not a fun experience.
When did Thailand start eating insects? The tradition of eating fried bugs, or malang tod, is centuries old and has been around as long as Thai food itself.
2. Larb Mote Daeng (Red Ant Eggs)
Ready for more edible insects? This seasonal delicacy is definitely one of the strangest Thai dishes out there. Most people probably don’t even know that ants lay eggs, but Thai people wait around all year for the season when they can climb up into the trees and harvest the eggs of red ants.
Sometimes the eggs are mixed with chicken eggs to make red ant egg omelets, and sometimes they’re just eaten on their own.
They’re a lot like caviar in texture, but the flavor is probably most similar to capers. If you can get over the fact that you’re ingesting unborn ants, it’s actually quite a delicious dish.
3. Goong Ten (Dancing Shrimp)
Next up on this list of weird Thai snacks is dancing shrimp. While you might be imagining a cartoon shrimp doing a little jig in a pair of tap dancing shoes, the reality is considerably less cute.
Enjoying this dish basically involves dipping your hand into a bucket of water and eating live shrimp that jump around in your mouth.
If you get your dancing shrimp from a street vendor in Phuket, they’ll probably be topped with a traditional sauce made of chili peppers, fish sauce, lime, lemongrass, and mint leaves.
But if you travel to the Isaan region in northeast Thailand, it’s not uncommon for locals to enjoy their dancing shrimp bare and raw. It’s almost like the Thai version of Pop Rocks candy.
4. Larb Leuat Neua (Uncooked Beef)
If you’re out looking for exotic food in Bangkok, you might just run into someone selling uncooked beef. Now, I know some of you meat-eaters out there like to brag about eating blue steak, but of course, Thailand takes it to the next level.
This raw beef never even gets close to a fire. Nope, straight off the cow and into a bowl where it’s mixed with a super-hot chili sauce and a little bit of uncooked cow blood for extra taste.
Thai people often wrap pieces of the beef in sticky rice and eat it with their bare hands, and maybe take a sip of lao khao, or white whiskey, to wash it down.
If you even think you might have a weak stomach, it’s probably better to stay away from this exotic food.
5. Baak Bpet (Duckbill)
In the world of crazy exotic foods, Thai people have really pushed the envelope in terms of what can and cannot be eaten.
We’ve all heard of the famous Chinese Peking duck, which can be found all over Thailand. But when all the meat has been taken off the bird, they never throw away the bill!
Instead, the duck’s bill gets soaked in soy sauce for a day or two and then gets grilled over a hot flame or fried before serving.
As strange as this sounds, it’s actually crunchy, delicious, and a great salty snack if you’re out having a Chang beer at the local pub.
6. Khai Kao (Fertilized Duck Egg)
In terms of Thai delicacies, fried duckbills aren’t the only strange duck dish you can find. Another food to be tried in Thailand is fertilized duck eggs.
This dish is seriously only for those with an iron stomach. The eggs typically contain a duck embryo which, depending on what stage of development the egg is in, may contain bones or feathers. And you can’t really take one of these down in a single bite, so you’ll have to do a good bit of chewing before you can say you ate your way through a khai kao.
Apparently eating these is a good way to boost fertility, but you might want to seek out other less exotic ways to increase your chances of conception first.
7. Mok Huak (Developing Tadpoles)
If you’re noticing a theme of eating not-yet-developed animals, it doesn’t stop with duck eggs or baby shrimp. Thai locals are known to enjoy a nice bowl of developing tadpoles that have been fermented in fish sauce.
These slimy little amphibians are often at the stage in their life cycle when they are just starting to grow legs, so don’t be surprised if you have to pull some frog feet out of your teeth.
The fish sauce pretty much takes over the flavor of this dish, but the smell has powerful notes of fermented amphibian. Maybe it’s best to plug your nose.
Thai people do eat adult frogs as well. And, apparently, Thai chili frog is pretty tasty.
8. Takatan (Grasshoppers)
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Thailand is the place to go for edible insects. Grasshoppers are another bug you can find fried up at a roadside stand in any Thai city. And if you think that you might rather have a fried bamboo worm than a fried grasshopper, be careful what you wish for.
The grasshoppers get fried whole, legs and all, and the sensation of chewing on a grasshopper leg is not for the faint of heart.
Apparently, people eat grasshoppers in Mexico as well. But when it comes to insect consumption, Thailand is still king.
9. Luu Muu (Raw Pig Blood)
If you’re one of those people who gets squeamish when blood comes out of your steak, you’re not going to like this one. Why? Because it’s literally a bowl full of raw pig blood.
Well, that’s not entirely true. It’s also usually eaten with a combination of spices and served over glass noodles. But still, raw blood.
If you’re thinking that there’s absolutely no way eating raw pig blood can be safe, you’re right. Doctors say that eating this Thai delicacy can actually lead to fatalities in some cases.
So if you’re planning on going on a gustatory journey through Thailand, have some bugs, eat a tadpole or two, but probably don’t try this one.