EXOTIC AND WEIRD FOOD IN THAILAND

WEIRD FOOD IN THAILAND

Exotic and weird food found in Thailand includes jellyfish, jungle frog, fried worms, fried cartilage and pork jowl and lizards. In northern Thailand, some people eat crickets. In northeastern Thailand, people are fond of eating a mango leaves filled with rice, fish paste and fried beetles for breakfast. In the south, lines of hanging dried squid is a common sight.

Thais eat orchids and other flowers. Flower dishes include white plumeria flowers with deep-fried rose pedals and a Thai tulip omelette and milkweed salad. In northern Thailand people are fond of kaeng yuak , which utilizes the inner part of a banana trunk as the main ingredient, and khanom chin nam ngiao , made of dried flowers of Bombax ceiba L., or the red silk cotton tree, as the main ingredient. In Chiang Mai, some restaurants offer salad dok mai made from fried flowers—the green buds and pink blossoms of fuchsia bougainvilleas—with a garlicky dressing.

Children were discovered in the Northeastern village of Baan Bor that subsisted almost entirely on two types of dirt: baked clay and in luang, soft layers of earth that are produced by termite-infested wood. There are also stories about families in the Northeast who are proud their daughters working as prostitutes in Bangkok because of material possessions such as televisions, DVD players and refrigerators, plus new concrete houses, that there money has allowed them to buy.

In November 2008, 140 villagers in Nan Province were rushed to the hospitals after eating fish balls thought to have been made with highly toxic puffer fish. The villagers at the fish balls at a funeral and soon began vomiting and complaining of numbness and shortness of breath. He fish balls had been obtained at a market, Puffer fish is sometimes used illegally because the meat is cheap.

Thai Buddhists are fond of pork, buffalo meat, beef, chicken, ducks, silkworms, snails, shrimp and crabs, During the rainy season they consumes as much as a pound of frogs a week.

Insects as Food in Thailand

Among the insects consumed in Thailand are grasshoppers, thumb-size cockroaches and huge water bugs. Food markets sell large commercially-raised edible insects such as water beetles and bamboo worms. At the markets in northern Thailand you can buy salted moth larvae. Jerry Hopkins, author of Strange Food: Bush Meat, Bats and Butterflies recommended eating them "like salted peanuts, with a beer." [Source: Strange Food: Bush Meat, Bats and Butterflies by Jerry Hopkins (Periplus, 1999].

In northern Thailand crickets are eaten as a snack and appetizer. In May 2005, 103 villagers in Khon kaen Province were hospitalized, suffering from diarrhea, dehydration and low pressure after eating crickets. A doctor said, “Only villagers who ate crickets immediately after buying them had health problems, but villagers who recooked the crickets had no problems.”

After the first hard rain of the rainy season huge inch-log red ants called maeng man emerge from their underground nests to mate in the air. Describing the event Peter Menzel wrote, a family "squatted in the steaming heat as insects emerged, grabbing them just as they took off. There was an art to it—the ants are covered with tiny white baby ants, and the baby ants bite, so you have to shake them off quickly and drop the big ants into a bottle." After the ants are stir-fried, they are eaten. "They had this great junk-food taste, like bits of fat that crunched in your mouth.

Frog in a Can Thailand

In 2006, AP reported: “The economy of this frog-farming village nearly croaked when the price of its plump product slumped on the international market. But Bo Talo may leap back from financial ruin with an innovative product: frog-in-a-can. People in the central Thailand village have long raised muddy brown-coloured, bumpy-skinned frogs for export to places like Taiwan, where frog legs and frog soup are favourites.But in 2000, the price of live frogs fell. So the people of Bo Talo invested $US15,200 ($A20,066.01) and started producing canned, ready-to-eat frog meat - under the Big Frog brand. [Source: AP, January 19, 2005 ]

"Our product's been well received because no one's ever done it before, so it's quite strange," says Yupa Sangnet, who came up with the idea and heads the group of villagers working on the project. "If you're the kind of person who doesn't like your frog fresh, you can have it in a can." The frogs are raised in large cement pools, slaughtered and cleaned, and then deep fried and tossed with two different sauces: spicy chili and sweet and sour. The chopped-up meat can be eaten with rice or as a snack with beer, much as fresh-cooked frog is consumed by Thais.

It's still a small-scale operation for the village of about 100 families, with just 15 workers. They produce only about 1,000 cans a day, paste on blue labels with a yellow cartoon frog licking its lips, and sell each can for 25 baht (less than $1). Things are looking good - all cans were snapped up at the launch in December, and a Thai businessman in the United States is talking about an export deal.

So, how do the frog farmers persuade the public to buy? It helps that Thais sneer at very little when it comes to food. No city, town or village is complete without its fried insect vendor. Even in hip, modern Bangkok, a bag of crickets, water bugs or larvae goes down like a treat. Big Frog is also pushing its wholesomeness, at a time when Thailand's chicken and duck industries are still fighting the blight of bird flu."No offence to those other producers, but our food's completely organic, and it's high in calcium and low in cholesterol," Yupa says. "We've done our research on its nutritional value. Our food's not just any food. It's healthy food, too."

Wild Animals as Food in Thailand

There are restaurants in Thailand that serve wild animals as the main dishes. Many of of the patrons are Thais along with tourist from China and South Korea. Two restaurants in the Bangkok area specialize in crocodile meat dishes. Many of their customers are Chinese.

In the 1990s, South Koreans, Taiwanese, people from Hong Kong and Chinese tourist went to restaurants in Thailand that specialized in bear dishes. One environmentalist told AP: "The bear is tortured to death in front of the diners. They say it makes the meat taste better. the coast of the bear banquet is now about 9,000 U.S. dollars." One of the most sought after items is bear paw, which is supposed to be especially tender from pawing for salt.

In 1996, five South Koreans were arrested in central Thailand with 24 severed paws and six carcasses from two endangered bear species—the Malayan sun bear and Asiatic black bear. The Koreans planned to sell the paws and meat for soup. The suspects faced four year jail terms and a $1,600 fine. Until the mid 1990s, some Korean restaurants served dishes such as bear paw soup and braised bear palms.

In the 1990s a crackdown was launched on restaurants that served “jungle food”, including meat from from endangered animals such as pangolins, barking deer, bear and gaur.

Dogs as Food in Thailand

According to animalpeoplenews.org: “About 52,000 dogs per year are eaten in Thailand, according to Roger Lohanan of Thai Animal Guardians. News accounts indicate that dog eating and cat eating were virtually unknown in Thailand before the U.S.-sponsored influx of ethnic Chinese refugees from Vietnam during the 1970s and 1980s. Settled mostly in northeastern Thailand, the refugees introduced a growing and increasingly controversial commerce in both dog meat and dog leather. Consumption of dogs is considered offensive by the Buddhist Thai majority, and has been discouraged to some extent by the Thai government, but has not actually been suppressed, to avoid heightening the already considerable ethnic tension between native Thais and the immigrants. [Source: animalpeoplenews.org]

Dog traders from town of Thatae in northeastern Thailand fan into the countryside in trucks with loudspeakers and steel cages to collect dogs for the meat and hide market. The traders used to exchange one plastic bucket for each dog and sold most of the meat to Vietnamese refugees who migrated to the area in the 1950s. In the 1990s the dog meat sold for $1.30 a pound. One trader said that he collected 14,000 dogs in just three weeks.

Some dog meat in Thailand is sun dried for protein supplements added to food for cattle, fish and even dogs. The skin is made into leather used bags and drums. Dog scrotum leather is favored for gloves. The penises are sent to China and Taiwan, where they are consumed as energy boosters.

Animal rights advocates claim the dogs are starved, clubbed over the head to make the meat more flavorful and finally killed with a slit to the throat.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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