It’s a Bug’s Life: The Unusual Snacks of Chiang Mai’s Sunday Market
Street food in Thailand is a rite of passage. It’s tasty, it’s quick and it’s delightfully varied. It won’t take you long, however, to come across a stall with a hoard of people crowded around. It’s time to eat bugs at the Chiang Mai Sunday Market!
Chiang Mai has many different markets catering to different crowds and with different produce for sale. By far the biggest and most popular is the weekly Sunday Market within the Old City. The market completely takes over whole streets around the Three King’s Monument and centers on Rachadamnoen Road. It makes for a great evening’s entertainment.
There are hundreds of stalls and soon enough you’ll spot one stall full of gawk-eyed tourists and wide-open mouths. You’ve found the bug snack stall. Take a few steps closer and get a good look. Your natural instinct is to be repulsed, after all the majority of us are wired to see bugs as disgusting. It looks like an insect graveyard… time to dive in.
What’s on the table?
To save you reading it every time, take it as standard advice to not think about what you’re doing. We’ll work through these delicacies one at a time. Consider us your bug sommelier:
- Grasshopper: The salty, crisp and crunchy popcorn of the insect world. They usually come with a salt and spice dry rub style marinade. Be sure to grab a toothpick for wings and legs that might get stuck in between your teeth. They’re actually pretty good with your eyes closed!
- Silkworm: These ones won’t be as dry and crispy as the others. This means they retain some of their more “wormy” qualities, including sliminess and goo. It’s a bit like biting into a sweet with a liquid middle.
- Locust: See Grasshopper but with a bigger mouthful. You can really see all the bug parts with this one!
- Ant Salad: You’ll be presented with a small clear bag. Into that goes a scoop of deep fried ants, some lime leaves and a good dash of a soy style dressing. The lime and dressing go a long way to covering up the fact that you’re feasting on bugs.
- Giant Water Bugs: These guys are a bit more involved. You need to first remove the hard-outer shell, wings and legs. You then get to chow down on the body, eggs and meat inside the head. Yum! They have a taste that’s different to the rest of the bug offerings. Far juicier with a hint of aniseed. They live in and are kept in water. The quality of the water is variable. Approach with caution.
- Bamboo Worms: These are going to be your best option if you want the bug-eating accolade without going for the above. They basically taste like a Cheeto but without the cheese. As soon as you bite down on them they are reduced to a bland nothingness. Perfect for a first-time bug eater!
The Show Pieces
The bugs we’ve mentioned are the ones that are piled high with hundreds of portions available. They’re the layman’s snack. Occasionally you’ll see some more premium bugs available. Expect to pay a higher price tag but achieve far higher kudos.
Scorpions: There’s no hiding the fact that they are indeed scorpions. Jet black, claws intact, stinger raised menacingly. They look terrifying but they can do no physical harm to you! Usually available on a bamboo skewer, grab one and approach it as you would any other satay stick. People have reported that they taste like peanuts that have been roasted a bit too much with a seriously crunchy texture.
Frogs: These aren’t standard in Thailand like they are in Vietnam or France, but Chiang Mai market comes up trumps. On the stalls here they’re splayed, covered in sauce and grilled. As with most unusual meat it tastes like chicken. Watch out for tiny bones.
Chiang Mai Sunday Market Insider Tip
Photography at these stalls can be a bit of a touchy subject. The owners are out to make their money through selling bugs. If you’re not buying any but are in the way taking photos, expect to receive a stern word or two. A simple solution? Buy a bag, share with friends and feel free to snap away to your heart’s content.