Huge artichokes

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Some massive artichokes

Now this vegetable here, the common artichike, may not seem so strange to most readers but I figured I’d give a change of perspective.  This is one of those things that we ten to take as normal, but many Asians would look at this with curiousity and intrigue.  A bit similar to cheese which, although many of us think of it is as one of the base products of our diet, there are a lot of Asians that look at it with disgust.  Ewww…gross!

I love fresh artichokes, but they are on vegetable that are very hard to find in most of Asia.  Harvested in only a few parts of the world (mostly Europe), it would be too hard to transport them over here.  I guess I’ll just have to settle for the canned hearts, but that doesn’t give the whole effect of eating an artichoke.

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Quail eggs! Maybe not so strange, but tasty!

Here’s some photos of quail eggs which may not be so strange to many of you, but are not all that common in America.  They are quite ubiquitous around Thailand and are usually served hard boiled or fried. They even have special frying pans for the little eggs so the vendors can crack out 7 or more at a time.  As you may have guessed they taste quit similar to your normal chicken egg, but in tiny bite-sized pieces that include both yolk and white.

By the way, the topping of choice for any kind of egg in Thailand seems to be soy sauce.  It’s actually very good as it adds the saltiness we tend to like with a bit more of the soy flavor.  All in all, it adds up to a tasty combination.

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Fried quail eggs

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Deshelling a hard boiled quail egg

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A bag of hard boiled quail eggs

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Who knew scorpions were edible?

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Two scorpions compared to a five baht coin.

This is certainly not the first odd food I’ve tried in Thailand, but definitely one of the strangest.  I mean, if you just had to guess off the top of your head, would you ever suspect that scorpions were edible?  Well it turns out they are.

I’m not sure exactly how they’re cooked.  Possibly a quick drop in the deep fryer is all it takes.  When you sit down to eat one of these things, first off you need take off the claws and discard because they are too hard.  Second, you need to get rid of the tail since it’s not only hard, but sharp enough to jab your mouth pretty good as well.  What your left with is a hard, not so tasty scorpion body left to chomp on.  Not very impressive to me in any aspects except the sheer strangeness of it.

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Closeup of two edible scorpions.

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Insects galore

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Flying insect

You can’t get enough bugs in Thailand, that’s for sure. These choice bits were purchased during a brief stay in Udon Thani, far up in the Northeast of Thailand. The first three photos are small crickets and are called jing riid [จิ้งหรีดทอด]. After that we have a bag of silk worm larva (dakdae [ดักแด้]). Not only are they used for making silk, but they are a countryside snack as well. Nice, plump, and juicy.

Lastly, we have the infamous maengda [แมลงดาทอด], known as a water cockroach although it is nothing like dirty city cockroaches. Thais hate city cockroaches just as much as most people and they would never think of eating them. Maengda are caught nearby bodies of water in the countryside. A light (I think blacklight) is placed in the air with buckets underneath. The maengda are attracted to the light but then get disoriented when they get too close and then fall in the buckets or on the ground where they are quickly scooped up.

To eat a maengda you break off the legs (sucking the juice out is optional) and discard.  Then you bite off the body and discard the head while enjoying the pleasant taste.  Actually, I don’t think the taste is very pleasant, but Thais say the bugs have a fruity aroma and I can definitely agree with this.  In fact, maengda is even used as an ingredient in some dishes because of this.  Most notably is nam prik maengda [น้ำพริกแมลงดา], where they take a maengda and cruash it up with chilis, garlic, fish sauce and a couple other items to create a chili sauce with a distinct flavor.  You can then use this sauce for dipping vegetables.

These are just a few of the different insects available in Thailand.  In the future I’m sure I’ll cover some more. All of these insects can be boiled or fried; these ones were fried.

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Cricket closeup

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Bag fulla crickets (จิ้งหรีด)

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Silk worm larva

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The infamous maeng daa

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Where ant eggs come from

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Red ant nest

If anyone’s been wondering where they get those ant eggs that are used in several Isaan foods, then here you go. This photo is actually from Laos, but these ants are very common all over Southeast Asia. As you can see the red ants live in trees and kind of stick a few leaves together to make their home. You definitely do not want to get caught standing under one of these since the ground is usually swarming with the ants as well. And they bite a lot which can be pretty painful when there’s a dozen of them going at you. Many times I’ve been out on the golf course trying to hit my ball from in the trees only to come running out with red ants attacking me (and my ball in an even worse lie if I managed to hit it). It’s amazing that when people try to collect the nests they just knock them out of the tree with a stick. Brave souls, since they ants are not pleasant when they’re going ballistic.

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The tastiest part of the chicken is…

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Laos snack

I just had to snap a photo of this snack from a roadside stand in Laos. It was somewhere between Luang Prabong and Vang Vien, to be specific. I’m not exactly sure what part of this is edible, but there they were, a couple trays full of them, all nicely bundled up. Unfortunately the photo is a bit blurry as I was trying not to attract attention and the glass case they were sitting in could certainly use a cleaning. In case you can’t tell, what we have is a chicken head (with neck), some bigger chicken bones, and chicken feet all wrapped together with chicken tendons. That’s some prime chicken right there. This is one strange food that I was not even slightly interested in trying.

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Welcome to my webpage. Maybe someday I’ll do something with it.

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Ain’t nothing like grilled frogs on a stick

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Grilled frogs on a stick

Here’s a tasty snack found in Laos and some parts of Northeast Thailand. Quarter-sized grilled frogs on a stick.  These particular frogs were found on the riverside in Vientiane, where I might add that I also happened to find some of the best and cheapest grilled ribs I’ve ever had.  Pleasant surroundings, too, just sitting along the Mekong River.

Many of you might be disgusted by this so-called snack, but it’s actually very tasty.  Probably nutritious, too.  The taste is somewhat salty, somewhat fishy, somewhat something else and the texture is crunchy and mushy at the same time.  Really a conundrum of tastes since it’s something I’m not used to.

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Peanut sprouts

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Peanut sprouts

This is an interesting vegetable I’ve had near Phuket in Southern Thailand twice now. Peanut sprouts (tua ngawk [ถั่วงอก], although this is the same as bean sprouts). I think most Westerners have had bean sprouts or alfalfa sprouts, but I had never even heard of peanut sprouts as a food. These ones were slightly pickled and actually served as a condiment for some kanom jiin [ขนมจีน], a curry with rice noodles where you add your own assortment of vegetables and seasonings. I’ll have to do another post about kanom jiin sometime since it is really interesting in all its varieties and combinations.

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Chicken feet soup

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Chicken feet soup

Chicken feet are probably one of the more well-known oddities that are common in Asia. They are actually a very versatile ingredient as they can be put in soups (shown here), salads, and deep-fried, amongst other preparations. To be honest, though, I’m not really sure why people enjoy them. They are hard, crunchy and chewy from the combination of skin, bone, and cartilage that makes them up and otherwise just taste (sort of) like chicken. And let’s not forget to mention that those feet usually haven’t been walking around the cleanest of places. I’ll pass on these and go for the chicken breast, please. Which brings up the point that supposedly many chicken farms in the US just keep the white meat, drumsticks, and wings (the good parts) for US consumption and ship the rest over to Asia and they think there getting the better end of the deal. I’m not so sure this is true, though, since chickens are in abundance over here so I don’t see any need to ship them. Well, as long as both sides are happy…

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