Bird's Nest Soup and Bee Larvae Snack are just two of many Fear Factor Foods emanating from Thailand, which westerners may find not only a tad squeamish to the eye but also less than palatable to the taste too.
However, these and many other delicacies are consumed in varying quantities by locals on a daily basis. Some you will find are relatively inexpensive while others are hugely expensive.
There is a simple explanation as to how some people view these bizarre food cravings. While some hypothesis is based purely on cultural upbringing and a great source of cheap protein, others see them as providing a number of health benefits.
Some are even thought to contain powerful aphrodisiac ingredients. Perhaps it all boils down to just how willing you are at pushing your boundaries.
Apart from giving you the lowdown on some yucky foods from Thailand, I thought that I might just add a few more of these horror types from around the world. For those of you who enjoy these supplements, obviously fear is not a factor for you.
Let's start with the least fear factor looking food of them all from Thailand. That would be something called Bird's Nest Soup. Though this food certainly doesn't exclude a small part of the yuck factor for some of us too, the soup is believed to provide you with numerous health benefits due to its high levels of calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. The molecular structure of the nest is made entirely from the saliva of swifts or sea swallows.
At $2,000 or 54,000 Baht a kilogramme, this particular saliva is one of the most expensive animal products consumed by humans. It mainly forms the basis of bird's nest soup, a sweet delicacy in Asian cuisine, but you can also purchase a bird's nest beverage with rock sugar from local stores in many parts of Thailand.
Apparently, these products are so nutritious that Chinese medical practitioners encourage people with all sorts of health ailments, to eat them. While I haven't had the courage to try this myself, I do have a have a small jar of the beverage right in front of me. I have yet to open it, so I'm afraid I cannot tell you at this stage what the taste is like. It's the fear in me, that's a factor.
While wandering around the streets of Bangkok you are bound to stumble upon many a street cart vendor selling an array of unfamiliar, unusual and unimaginable looking deep pan fried edible anything, including an assortment of creepy crawling insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, spiders, scorpions and frogs that most of us will have come to recognize but would never ever think of actually eating.
However, if you look closely enough at all the extraordinary Thai Street Food on offer, you'll also spot many a squiggly slug too. One, or so I'm told, is a tasty, if not ugly insect larvae known as a bamboo worm. I am also told that these little crispy critters are similar in taste and texture to that of puffed corn snacks.
instead of perhaps snacking on a packet of crisps, why not try a packet
of protein filled bamboo worms. Apparently, these worms are far better
for you than ordinary western type snacks as they packed with all sorts
of nutritious goodies.
Though I am just here to take notes and a few photos, I spot a number of locals buying these eerie eateries as a kinda in-between meal. I gesture to the vendor who for ten Baht, allows me to take as many photos as I like.
Bamboo worms are one of the most common insects consumed and relished by the local Thai people throughout Thailand, but for certain unexplained reasons, my Thai girlfriends won't participate in this foolhardy fear factor fetish. I cannot agree with them more.
Though moths of this larvae once fed on flowering bamboo trees they are now raised on commercial farms and fed on the same diet including organic vegetables and grains. When the worms have matured enough, many are quick frozen, shallow fried, flavoured, packaged and then sold in stores and some even online. I'm told - Uncooked bamboo worms, when eaten, are mildly hallucinogenic.
For those of you who are more than daring to engage and indulge, go ahead and gorge as much of this high protein, high fibre, low-fat critters as you would like.
Not far from Thailand is the Philippines where you can try a delicacy of a different kind called a Balut. It's a Filipino dish pronounced bah-luht. For less than a dollar you can buy this baby duck fetus or if you prefer foetus. The tiny duckling hardly starts any form of life incubated in its egg until partially developed.
This being little more than part of the beak, some pieces I don't wish to describe and even a sprinkling of feathers. The egg is then boiled and spiced. Apart from being high in protein, they are also believed to be a powerful aphrodisiac. There's no doubt this fear factor food would win hands down in any eye-candy department.
At about 30 Baht or a little over a dollar, you can invest in a Bee Larvae Snack. Just as you would gobble up a carton of popcorn, why not gorge yourself silly on some delicious deep fried bee larvae.
When next in Thailand ask one of the many street cart vendors to serve you up a portion. Bee larvae are best enjoyed with a sprinkling of salt and pepper as well as some added spices. Did I mention that these delicious crunchy protein filled delights taste similar to that of prawns?
Not everything has to taste like chicken as some would like us to believe. Isn't it amazing that deep frying anything can make it palatable for human consumption?
Still further afield in Sardinia, you can try a traditional maggot infested cheese delicacy known locally as Casu Marzu. It's riddled with live insect larvae. Yes! You heard me right. I think not that this is suitable for the faint of heart.
During the curing process and within the cheese itself, flies lay their eggs, leaving behind thousands of white transparent maggots. They can either be scrapped out or eaten live with the cheese, but be aware that these little critters are good at jumping and are known to hop as high as fifteen centimetres. It's best to wear some sort of eye protection while wolfing down some of these live maggot larvae.
This may be a great treat for some daredevils, but if not whole-heartily chewed properly, surely many maggots could survive in the acids of your stomach and then perhaps even start breeding in your intestines thus causing regurgitation of the worst possible kind. Or is it possible you can catch a serious case of diarrhoea or both? These maggots have powerful mouth-hooks which can lacerate stomach linings or intestinal walls while attempting to bore through your internal organs.
I for one will not tempt this fearsome fear factor feat and it's definitely not on my to-die-for-list either. Please note that the cheese is not fit for consumption once the maggots die. Someone should report this maggot-filled cheese infestation to the local authorities or an enforcement agency and have their license suspended. At $65 a kilogramme, some people will go to extraordinary lengths to get their kicks.
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