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Monday, 7 August, 2000, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
Crunchy bugs now in cans
Locusts
Pests elsewhere, but for Thais locusts are a crispy snack
They're crunchy, high in protein and low in calories, yet they rarely feature in most diets.

In Thailand though, insects are a favourite snack food.

Fried, stirred or grilled, they can be eaten with a chilli dip or just on their own.

Crickets go well with a cold beer, so they say, while red ant eggs would suit a salad.

A Thai food vendor sells bugs
Bug-food can be bought from street vendors
Now consumers no longer have to go to the fried insect stalls found all over Bangkok to bite into a beetle.

Critter cuisine now comes in cans - which can even be bought over the internet.

The Sakon Nakhon Agricultural Research and Training Centre (SARTC) is canning grasshoppers, locusts, water beetles, crickets, silkworm pupae and ant eggs.

For those who have trouble choosing, they can select a "mixed insect" variety.

The centre told the French news agency (AFP) that its first shipment sold out extremely quickly. It has now received its first export order from Japan.

Old tradition

Insect consumption is firmly entrenched in the rural north-east of the country, but is relatively new elsewhere.

The snack food became popular in the city with the migration of rural north-easterners in the last two decades.


Bangkok people have developed a taste for insects

SARTC spokeswoman
The street vendors in Bangkok now say that selling fried bugs is a more lucrative business than selling fruits or noodles.

The SARTC's Ratana Koomklang told AFP that the snack food has caught on quickly in Bangkok.

"Bangkok people have developed a taste for insects, so they are ready to see canned insects on shelves," she said.

Fried insects
The wings and hard exoskeletons are usually removed before cooking
"The bugs seem a little exotic to them, but they are also a convenient purchase now that they're canned."

Locusts, she said, have a higher protein-energy ratio than nearly all other animal products other than some fish.

Most of the edible insects have twice as much protein as beef.

SARTC's factory in the north-east of the country sterilises, preserves and spices the bugs before packing them.

The factory produces as much as 60 kg of canned bugs on high-turnover days.

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