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Nam Prik Mang Da: the spicy condiment’s with pounded water beetles

2 min read

Traditionally, many Thai delicacy comes with a side of so-called nam prik, a hot sauce of peppers, onions, and other seasonings, pounded together in a mortar and pestle.
There are really countless varieties, but one is especially unique: nam prik mang da, which contains giant water beetles (Lethocerus Indicus), among other ingredients.

Let’s be honest. Besides two extra pairs of legs, is there some real differences between eating an aquatic insect and eating a crustacean?
If you can eat a shrimp, a crab, or a lobster, why not a giant water bug?
About 7,5 cm long, they can either roam rice fields in the country or buzz around streetlights in the city.
Closer to cicadas than roaches, giant water bugs are classified as “true bugs,” and are also truly aquatic.
Except for the occasional mating flight, their lives are spent submerged in fresh water, breathing through a natural snorkel and spearing prey with a natural harpoon.
The larger females of the species are also eaten on their own, after being deep-fried, while the males, ground in a mortar and pestle with chilis, onions, and garlic, they give off a unique flowery flavour.
The bugs’ pheromones are the main reason that they’re are added to nam prik.
Taste-wise, they’re rather like shrimp, but their unique musk is so distinctive that it’s often distilled and sold by the bottle, and there’s even an artificial version.
Either way, along with giving the nam prik a flowery, herbal aroma and taste, apparently the beetles also cause the slightest of numbing sensations on the tongue.
Water bugs of the species Lethocerus Indicus are a regional delicacy in Southeast Asia, eaten in parts of the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. But, Thailand is the country that makes the widest culinary use of the insect, locally called แมงดา, or mang da.

Interestingly, a lot of Thais don’t even eat bugs, which are primarily country food, especially in northeast Thailand, though tourist areas of Bangkok and other cities do a good business with them, especially for their power to freak out tourists and foreigners….

Images from web – Google Research