Beetlemania


As I bit into its crunchy shell, gushy entrails oozed in my mouth and I began to second-guess my philosophy of trying everything once. Although I had sampled plenty of obscure local delicacies, from fish eyes to cow’s tongue, during my travels in Asia, nothing could have prepared me for the ultimate odd food.  

After our bus to Angkor Wat stopped at an open market off the side of road, my friend Scott and I decided to grab some snacks for the trip. We picked up a couple bags of locally branded cookies and chips. Further down the dusty path, we noticed a row of street vendors sautéing objects in large cast-iron woks. Upon closer inspection, we realized that they were cooking various types of insects, from beetles and crickets to tarantulas, and seasoning them with chili powder.

I figured this might be the only time in my life to try a little roadside grub so I convinced Scott to try some with me. We chose from the mounds of insects a grab bag of beetles, crickets, and spiders, and then played a tense game of rock-paper-scissors to see who would go first. I lost. So, I removed a beetle from the flimsy paper sack, ripped off its wings and legs one by one, closed my eyes and had a nibble of its head and thorax.

The shell was brittle yet edible. And, the seasoning seemed to mask the bug’s natural flavor. Nothing, however, could compensate for the horrid sensation of its hemolymph seeping into my mouth. I plugged my nose and quickly chewed it up. After taking a swig of water, I asked Scott if I had any legs stuck in my teeth.

He chuckled and said, “No. You’re good, man.”

“Ok. Now, it’s your turn.” I exclaimed.

Scott scooped up one of the juiciest beetles in the bunch – roughly the size of a child’s palm – and engulfed it without hesitation. I anxiously watched, waiting for him to regurgitate it or, at least, gag. To my surprise, he looked completely unfazed and almost seemed to relish the taste of the oversized vermin as if it was a piece of Godiva chocolate.

We ended up trying the crickets and tarantulas before hopping back on the bus.

During the ride, I told Scott that the bugs he digested were probably still alive and laying eggs in his stomach as we speak.  He slowly turned to me and said in an eerie voice, “It wouldn’t be the first time.”

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