A few years ago, it became somehow fashionable in Europe to have a chef on boulevard television to fry maggots or grasshoppers, declaring them to be healthy and asking someone from the audience to try these insect dishes.

For the eeeeeeeeeeew- effect, you know?

This was only shortly before I found out that these fried insects were already a reality in Thailand and have been for quite some time. This was when I still came to Thailand as a tourist and – sorry to say- it would have never crossed my mind to actually eat any of the creatures from the insect micro-cosmos.

Just last week: a tasty plate of crickets!

Only three month after I moved to Bangkok, it happened. On the New Year’s morning of 2008, in a mix of alcohol, party-mood, not very well lit rooms and me not paying attention, I ate a fried grasshopper by accident, you could say. I must say it tasted like the stuff they put on it (some chilli-oil) and like nothing much else. It was crispy and not bad at all.

To my own surprise, there was no eeeeeeew- moment and, since that incident, I had grasshoppers several times and also tasted ant salad (black ants with lemon grass, garlic and chilli) as well as fried bamboo worms or wood worms (larvae). They are actually, if you don’t look too close, yummy.

I will not kid you. I am not an adventurous eater. I had my share of exotic meals in Thailand, including rat, crocodile, snake, frog on a stick and said grasshoppers, worms and ants. I think I am fine now and will not try more, especially because other types of insects on the menu are actually totally “eeeeeeeeeeeew” to me.

There are big flying bugs that look a bit like giant dung beetles, tarantulas (very popular in Cambodia), scorpions or Maeng Da, a giant water- beetle, easily 10 cm long.

Too much insect for my personal taste: Maeng Da

Sorry, but that is just too much insect for my personal taste. Of course, many people will tell you that these insects are not only tasty, but also much healthier than our usual potato chips (less calories, less unhealthy fats and so on). Sure right, but let’s face it. A potato is not likely to crawl under your bed.

But insects and bugs may be the food of the future, protein rich and easy to breed and harvest in high quantities.

While you need to burn down huge parts of a rainforest to get enough space to raise cows for hamburgers, I guess you would only need a space of a football field to feed a whole country with grasshoppers or ants. In Thailand, insect snacks are especially popular with people from Isaan. And it makes sense. Isaan is still a very poor part of Thailand. And if you are poor, you a) do not ask where your next meal comes from and you b) eat, what Mother Nature has available.

So let’s review. Insects are tasty. They are healthy (if you don’t snack them with buckets of beer, of course!) and they are widely available. Some of them are not even that “eeeeeeeeeeeew”, but I guess that depends on your own taste and inhibition.

If for nothing else, you having a picture taken with a mouth full of insects makes for a good bragging about how cool you are with your friends back home.