Thursday, April 19, 2012

Larval dinner in Laos

One of the less pleasant aspects of getting older is being confronted with one's own inadequacies. As young people, we believe that we're invincible, that we can eat anything. As it turns out, we can eat anything, but we'll then spend months of our lives blogging about how sick we've been.

I've been meaning to post these photos (taken by my BFF, Frances) of my birthday dinner in Luang Prabang for more than a month. But then I realized that there'd be no way of posting these pictures without telling the whole gory story--I'm a stickler for honesty, after all. And then I reviewed my posts of the last few months and realized that all I ever write about  here is getting sick, which led me to the horrible realization that I don't have the stomach of steel that I like to pretend that I do.

Anyway, soon after arriving in Laos I got sick. Like, staying in bed for three days sick and being miserable the whole time and not being able to leave the cruddy hotel sick.  But then it was my birthday, and Frances had booked an amazing set dinner at Tamarind restaurant, with the menu that had been recommended by Robyn at EatingAsia. Another friend had just arrived that day and even though I wanted to crawl into a sewer pipe and die, I thought that I would go to dinner if for no other reason than to try and look tough and not let these wonderful ladies down.

So on unsteady legs, I toddled off to the restaurant, looking forward to the first solid food I had eaten in 48 hours. Until I realized that we had pre-ordered an entire meal--course after course--of insects. I'll admit that I was surprised. Robyn has claimed in the past to not be much of a fan of bugs. Maybe she just meant in her house and not on her plate, I don't know. I suppose I should have been tipped off that the menu was called the "adventure set."

But as most know, I'm not one to let a plate of terrifying food get in the way of my good time, so I knocked back a couple of glasses of lao-lao, the Laotian local rice wine, and started in on the ant larvae (which were surprisingly delicious).

By the time we moved on to the baby frogs eaten whole, the fermented fish, the honeybees and the snake soup, I was pretty pleased with myself. The only time my stomach turned was when I saw my friend Cissy tear the face off a 3 inch long black beetle and throw it into her gaping maw, but another few shots of lao-lao and even that was a distant, and not unpleasant memory. My satisfaction was so extreme, in fact, that when I was presented with a plate of giant, golden moth larvae, I jammed one in my mouth, ignoring the taste of rotten innards that had the look and consistency of scrambled eggs. The whole meal managed to disappear into a lao-lao haze that seemed to somehow steady my sickness-shaken legs.

That night I woke up at 3am, stumbled to the bathroom and puked the whole thing up, baby frogs and all. Nonetheless, a delicious and adventurous dinner, although perhaps one best eaten on a settled stomach.


  1. That wasn't the most propitious time for such a meal, but... one does what one does. However - insects are a part of most genuinely traditional foods, as I learned in places like Malawi. Growing up in Mexico, I learned ant larvae are delicious and if it's rainy season guess what I crave most? Escamoles! (Ant larvae.)

    We also enjoy meocuiles, maguey moth larvae (fried especially), chinicuiles (red agave moth larvae), grasshopper in various ways, jumil bugs, and auahutli (syrphid fly larvae). And tjose are a very few from the long list.


  2. Ant larvae was one of the items on the menu that was genuinely good, I'd eat it again with no hesitation. The moth larvae on the other hand--I can understand why people eat it, great source of protein, etc. etc. but honestly, it was not delicious to me. Neither are beetles. Crickets just taste like what they are cooked in--they're sort of like chips in that regard and I wouldn't go out of my way to eat them. The honeybees were really, really good. They tasted like honey!

    I wish I knew more about Mexican food, what I do know is really, really good.

  3. red faced ambiguousApril 26, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    Faced with this spread I'd rather eat Stinky Tofu.
    You are making great sacrifices for your Art.
    Would you have puked if you hadn't been drinking?
    Actually I nearly puked just reading the post.