Mae’s scavenging

My Thai mother is always full of surprises. She spends most of her days scavenging for food around the house, coming home with a plethora of foods from fresh mushrooms to banana tree flowers. Sometimes she will leave in the middle of the night with a groups of friends to go catch shrimp in the nearby sea.

The other day I went to greet her after my day of teaching. She smiled at me, her mouth stained red from the betel nuts she chews all day long, as she offered me some of a food she had just prepared. As I tried a spoonful of the mysterious food she had gotten that day I suddenly tasted something very earthy, and a bit sour, similar to something I've eaten before but I couldn't quite pinpoint what. Still not sure what it was, I told her I wasn't a huge fan. That's when she told me I had just eaten red ants and their eggs. Now the flavor made sense, it was similar to the taste of crickets!

My Mae proceeded to tell me that she had collected all the ant eggs herself along with her friend. They found them in a tree behind the kindergarten school. These are weaver ants and nest in (mango) trees rather than the ground. To get them you must grab the nest full of ants, put it in a bucket of water and shake the ants out. This is a popular food in Isaan, the North East region of Thailand, and are only in season for a few weeks of the year. It is quite an expensive food, costing about 400 baht ($12) a kilo. Thanks to my Mae we get to eat this tasty treat for free. It is quite good when made into a spicy salad (ก้อยไข่มดแดง) with hot peppers, shallots, mint, and lime.

 

My Mae's friend sifting through the ant eggs

 

Yum..

With my Mae, with her basket of betel-nut beside her

Here is a “Bizarre Foods” episode from Thailand. It shows a lot of distinctive foods for the different areas of Thailand, including the red ant eggs!

 

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