Samui Wining & Dining
Funky Foods

From ant eggs to blood salad, there are some unusual Thai dishes out there.

 

4Giblets. They ain’t pretty. In the West their offending form and texture is often disguised by being diced and added to a stuffing, much like you would do with carrots in a bolognaise for a 5-year-old who won’t eat their veggies. Sometimes they’re chopped into little cubes and put into a pie. But rarely are they displayed in all their glory like they are in Thailand’s giblet soup (tue huan). Usually with a pork broth base, the innards, in all manner of shapes, float proudly at the top of the soup. Although they are chopped, little has been done do conceal their true nature. There’s kidney, liver, stomach lining and more, all hovering about in there. Those who love it swear by the unique flavour.

    And then there’s deep-fried locusts. Funnily enough, this is one that even many Thais avoid like the plague. Legend has it that the reason these crunchy little fellas came about as a snack item was that they were wreaking havoc on plantations, so the farmers proceeded to kill and eat them. Another theory is that because crops were hard to grow, and cattle difficult to rear in the north-eastern part of Thailand, locusts were a food item derived merely from creative desperation. Either way, there’s nothing actually wrong with eating them, so if you can muster up the courage to give them a go then by all means do. And once you’ve conquered the locusts you can give the deep-fried beetles and scorpions a go.

Chicken feet are a delicacy throughout Asia, and Thailand is no exception, where they are often used in a soup (kha gai super). As you’d imagine, this dish has a chicken broth base, and in it you’ll find a number of not-so-often-used parts of a chicken, including skin-on chicken feet. Much like a Halloween punch bowl, you can often see the clawed foot protruding out of soup in what looks like a last-ditch attempt to escape. To eat this delicacy you slurp up the soup with a spoon and then gnaw away at the chicken feet to get the pieces of meat off. There’s not actually a huge amount of meat on the feet, so you’ll have to get in and around the toes to reap your rewards.

      Papaya salad is a national favourite in Thailand, and many tourists who can handle a bit of spice love them too. But not all papaya salads are created the same. There is one which trumps all in the fear factor stakes, and that is papaya salad with fermented mussels (som tum hoy dong). Papaya salads are, generally speaking, a pale green/yellow colour, but this one is fiery red – your first warning sign. Mixed in with the papaya pieces are stringy, orangey-red pieces of fermented mussels. But don’t worry; if you can’t see them you’ll smell them first. And as the taste is equally as strong. This dish is not for the faint hearted.

      There’s one particular pork salad (larb leuat), which actually has the potential to be a health hazard due to the fact that it uses raw meat. It's comprised of raw pork in a sour and spicy salad, that’s dressed with fresh pig’s blood. Although it’s traditional to make this salad with raw pork, government warnings encouraging people to cook the pork instead mean you’ll often get a cooked version in restaurants today – although it’s still dressed in that all-important fresh pig’s blood. There’s a raw beef version of this dish too (larb leuat neua), also dressed in blood.

       Whilst chicken eggs are a staple breakfast food all over the world, would you ever think of eating ant eggs? Not only are these a delicacy in Thailand, but they’re quite an expensive one too! You can eat them raw, fried, in an omelette or in an Issan-style soup. The fried version (larb kai mot daeng) is actually quite tasty CNNGo writer, Mark Wiens, reports. “Blindfold a person, feed them a bite of red ant larb, and they will usually say it’s delicious. But unfortunately, it’s purely the idea of eating ant eggs that's to blame for most people’s revulsion. Why some people love it: Red ants eat mango leaves so their bodies taste like a squirt of lime. Their eggs, on the other hand, are fatty, like precious morsels of rich butter.” A fairly positive assessment it must be said.Do you like sushi? Well the Thais also have a sushi-esque dish just for you: raw shrimp (goong chae nam pla). These juicy crustaceans are served with the head and shell removed but tail still on, and dressed in garlic, chilli, spring onion and fish sauce.

      There are a lot of interesting dishes out there in Thailand that’s for sure. Some you’ll see in markets, some on the carts of street vendors, and others on restaurant menus. Each of these ‘unusual’ dishes has loyal followers – otherwise they wouldn’t be around any more. And who knows, after you give them a try you just might become one too.



Christina Wylie


 


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