22 April 2010

Talking about weird food, have you ever tried eggs?

Bear with me, you guessed right, I'm not talking about chicken nor duck eggs.
Imagine you are invited to join lunch or dinner with your new acquaintance's home family in the far northeast corner of Isaan. People gather on the floor, one dish after the other appears in big and small bowls and you realize your Thai host family is already giggling, because they can see on your face that you have no idea what is being served.

You can identify the roasted chicken, this might be braised duck over there, but what the heck are those oval shaped baby worms doing among all the other food? You have heard about weird food in Thailand, but now your imagination goes berserk. Fortunately, it doesn't wiggle or make any noise. Actually, this looks like eggs rather than worms and it seems to be the favorite of your Thai hosts, who now inevitably start to encourage you to try.
"We can only harvest it this time of the year" Sman, the head of your host family, explains, noticing your hesitation. "Come on, get a bite".

Of course, you will demand an explanation first, and what you hear is not to make it easier for you. 
These are ant eggs.

They come in size and color of small white beans. Looking at them closely, you can even see a tiny little black eyes. Some have developed what seem to be legs.

While you still consider your options, Sman goes on and on what great source of protein they are, let alone their delicious taste.
They are harvested from tree branches, you learn. People make their own tools by cutting a bamboo pole, which then is being sharpened at the tip. A bucket is being attached to the pole with ropes. The sharp tip of the pole is now pushed into the ant's nest and moved as long as necessary to make the eggs fall into the bucket.

Finally, he convinces you to try a bite. No, you don't want to be impolite and yes, you can already imagine how you can brag about it, back at home.

Milky, crunchy, oily. One egg popped nicely in your mouth, reminding you of fish eggs. Mmm...not bad actually.

Sman seems to be pleased with the expression on your face.
"Do you want another bowl of this?" "Another time" you reply politely, reaching for the bowl with chicken soup. Chicken soup? "You are a brave young man", Sman says, "I hope you are going to like our frog soup."

Ant Eggs Soup 

Ant Eggs Omelet