When we go out to eat, we’re big advocates for choosing the strangest thing off the menu. Or at least something we’ve never tried before. This endeavour has given us the opportunity to try some of the most incredible meals that we never would’ve discovered otherwise. And what better way to get to know a local cuisine than to try something you’re not used to?
Thailand is a particularly great place to try this. Whether you’ve made your way through the different levels of Thai cuisine and ready for a new challenge, or maybe you’re just feeling a little adventurous today, here are five unusual and insta-worthy foods to try while you’re in Thailand.
1. Mantis shrimp
One of my favourite food experiences to talk about is eating the Mantis Shrimp. In fact, I’ve written a whole post on it here!
The reason I like this one so much is because the Mantis Shrimp is this mighty creature with super powers, yet also an awfully unfortunate alien-like crustacean. It doesn’t come across as something you’d be quick to fry up and throw on a plate.
But we did. And you should, too.
Expectation? I pictured myself spending a lot of time and effort picking around little bits of alien shell with little reward. Much like little crawfish — all shell, no flesh. I expected it to be shrimp like in texture but crab like in smell and flavour.
Reality? Somewhere between a lobster and a prawn in texture. Succulent, meaty flesh with a nice shrimp-like consistency. And there’s an impressive amount of meat inside those skinny bodies!
2. Ocean Snails
I’ll admit I wasn’t overly excited to try this one when the opportunity fell upon us. But we’d heard many positive reviews and had enjoyed smaller snails in the past so of course we had to jump on it.
In comparison to the average land snail, these ones range from about triple their size to as big as the size of your palm. We couldn’t find the gigantic ones anywhere so we went with the smaller versions.
Expectation? I imagined a really tough/chewy mushroom consistency, with a salty, earthy taste.
Reality? Less earthy and more of a seafood quality to it. We really enjoyed them! They did have that chewier texture I expected but tender enough that they were enjoyable. You could tell they were fresh from the ocean.
3. Fried Garlic Mackerel heads
Just south of Chatuchak Market, you can find a quiet restaurant called Soei. This place is much lauded by the famous food blogger Mark Weins, and offers a huge assortment of dishes on their menu. In fact, overwhelmingly so — it took us at least 20 minutes to sift through the various menus and pictures until we could make our final choices.
But one particular option grabbed our attention. The most eyebrow raising item on the menu was the fried garlic mackerel heads and naturally, we had to have it.
Expection? Really chewy yet crispy, almost like a soft bone, and very fishy. I pictured myself eating one, and leaving the rest for Linda to finish. I really didn’t think I would enjoy it.
Reality? Like potato chips! They’re delightfully crispy with a very delicate fish taste; seasoned beautifully with just enough of a deep-fried coating to make them irresistibly yummy! The plate was devoured in no time.
The King of Fruit: mushy, yellow, dreadfully smelly, and a prime example of a love-it-or-hate-it food. It is most certainly unusual.
But when I say love it, I mean those that enjoy it are frankly obsessed. And there are an equal amount of folks who downright can’t stand it.
Expectation? At first glance, I thought it would be chewy and fleshy. Based on the offensive farty smell, I imagined the taste to be less sweet and perhaps a little dull — similar to avocado, for example.
Reality? Boy, was I wrong. Not only was the texture the messiest, mushiest fruit I’ve ever laid my hands on, but the taste wasn’t what I’d predicted either. To be honest, I didn’t love it but.. I also didn’t dislike it? It was strange, sweet and had me going back for more but not necessarily because I wanted it. More so just out of curiosity.
If you’ve got the classic tourist’s checklist for Thailand, there’s a good chance that somewhere between visiting Khao San Road and eating Pad Thai, there’s a challenge to eat bugs.
So, I did my best to avoid this one because I thought for sure that this was some silly gimmick that locals had a good laugh about while they watched “cultured tourists” eat a local cuisine of cockroaches. It wasn’t until I stepped outside the touristy areas and witnessed local Thais ordering bags full of these little critters for pleasure.
I stood corrected and switched my perspective on this one. At the end of the day, even if it were a joke, it’s still edible and something we’d never tried before. No need to be such a stick-in-the-mud, right?
Expectation? All I could picture were dismembered legs stuck in my teeth. I figured they’d have a salty, savoury flavour. A little crunchy, a little fleshy.
Reality? Nailed it. Legs, everywhere! They look exactly like they taste but what I didn’t expect was that each bug had something that made it more or less enjoyable than the other type of bug. It all came down to the size and texture of each one.
For example, we liked the beetles and crickets more than the grasshoppers but those were better than the locusts. The wormy ones needed a bit of mind-over-matter conditioning due to their squishy texture but actually aren’t all that bad once you bite into them.
I would recommend skipping on the giant locusts. They required too much chewing, which gave you ample time to think about the fact that you have a giant locust in your mouth… and you can imagine where your mind takes you at that point!
Thailand: the land of infinite food adventures.
Sure, there are plenty of other reasons to visit this marvellous country, but if you haven’t been paying attention to Thailand’s vast and rich food culture, I must question your priorities!
If you’re looking for more Thailand food inspiration, start here!