Tag Archives: culture

Ingesting Insects

Thai Insect Snack Seller

When the family planned a trip to Thailand, I had two things on my agenda. Eat every thing no matter how exotic and pet a tiger. I managed the first and the second…well, it will have to wait for my next trip. Thai food by and large was fantastic. Spicy, coconut-y and fishy. All the things I like in food. But there are some memories about thai food that are more intense than others.

On our way out of the Walking Street in Pattaya, I came across a street vendor selling fried insects. On the menu were crickets (Jing Leed), silk worms, water bugs (Maeng Da), scorpions, grass hoppers (Tak Ga Tan), wood worms (Non Mai) and bamboo insects (Non Pai). It was a truly gut churning display. But I had decided to try everything and so try it I did. I took a plate with an assortment of crickets, scorpions, grass hoppers, silk worms and wood worms. The stall owner fried them in a wok and presented them to me after dusting them with some spices. And though I would like to say just how horrible it was to eat these critters, I must admit that they tasted quite nice. I would even have a bag of crickets on the go if I had another shot at it. The only insect that presented a challenge was the scorpion. Despite removing the tail and head, it was still a bit too crunchy and insect-y for ones liking.

The Eaten Scorpion

Further investigation revealed that the insects are cooked in a mix of Golden Mountain Sauce (Soya bean sauce, water, sugar and salt) and Thai pepper powder. I also found out that eating insects is not as weird as I thought it was. It seems it is quite a common snack in Africa as well as Central and South America – where they greatly prize edible flies and ant eggs. Insects are said to be very healthy being low in fat (Do I see a new celebrity diet fad coming ;-)), and high on protiens, iron and calcium. Also in the future insects maybe a viable food option as the cost of meats is going to increase hugely. There are plenty of people who encourage the eating of insects and an interesting article by Vincent M. Holt (1885) can be found at http://bugsandbeasts.com/whynoteatinsects/.

So I say, let go of your inhibitions and the next time you see a roach…don’t squish it – cook it!!!!!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

A Haat in Tuljapur

The crazy thing  about village markets is the amazing stuff you get there, and the absolutely mind boggling meld of smells, colours and textures that assail you. Its a 360 degree sensual experience. In my time I have been to my fair share of these markets. They are called Santha in some parts of South India and Haat in other parts of India. These markets happen on one or two particular days of the week and can be a delightful experience if you don’t mind sharing you space with a huge throng of humanity plus cattle, dogs, goats and chickens. One of the best haat’s I visited was in Tuljapur, Maharashtra. It had all the makings of brilliant market experience. Interesting people attired in bright clothing, a variety of fruits, vegetables and grains on sale along with an assortment of other things that were deemed important in the scheme of rural life.

A farmer at the Haat

 

The people were dressed in their traditional attire. There were men in Dhotis and bright pink turbans and women in navvari (nine yard) sarees.

Onion Sellers

The market sold a variety of things but a few of them were particularly interesting. for instance I came across an interesting arrangement of what initially looked like hand fans. On closer inspection I realized that they were actually brooms.

Brooms

And then there was the absolutely mouth watering bread lane. Here they were selling khari,  rusk, biscuits and a variety of other stuff. Most of these, especially the khari and the rusk are eaten dipped in hot tea. The whole lane was shaded by a yellow tarpaulin that cast the most beautiful light over all the brown and golden bread.

Bread Market

One of the more interesting things I came across was the ladies selling dried fish. Dried fish is very popular in the coastal areas of India and can be cooked in a variety of ways. To start with the fish has to be thoroughly washed to remove any trace of the sand and stones that get attached to it during its preparation period (fish is often salted and dried on road sides and sea shores). So washing the dried fish is essential. Not only does this clean the fish, but it also removes the excessive salt used in preserving the fish. Once the fish is washed it can been cooked in one of two ways. Either made into a spicy curry of tamarind juice, red chillies, curry leaves and mustard seeds or fried along with a whole lot of onions and curry leaves as an accompaniment to a dal or rasam and rice.

Dried Fish

Dried fish as the name suggests is not only fish, but also shrimp and prawns. Usually sardines and mackerel as well as Bombay Duck lend themselves to being dried.

The haat at Tuljapur was delightful. It left me with so many memories of food and people.

Vegetable cart

 

Tagged , , ,