I have had a very strange, kafka-esque sort of day, involving both a strange awakening and insects.
I woke up this morning to discover that I had developed a full-blown male mid-life crisis (mediatas limen discrimine) and was desperate to book myself on a motorbike tour – ok, a vespa tour – of the night food markets. Then when my vespa arrived, I was thrilled out of all proportion to discover it was red.I began by saying firmly ‘not fast’ to Sokay, my driver, and then I clung on to him as we whizzed through the streets towards the night market. But I noticed that the other passengers on the tour had their hands by their sides or in their lap, and they looked much cooler than me, so I let go of Sokay and assumed a nonchalant expression, whilst clamping my knees around his thighs in a vice-like grip and jabbing him in the back with my camera.
The first stop at the market was the fruit stall, where we tried all sorts of things I’d never even heard of, like spider fruit and jack fruit – and several others which didn’t even have a name in English.
Then we tried green mango served with sugar and chopped red chilli, which was very good.
We moved onto the next stall, where I did my bit to keep down the local insect population by eating fried crickets and grasshoppers, and silkworms marinated in soy sauce and garlic. The insects weren’t too bad, truth to tell, crispy and salty – you just pull the head off and then crunch away.
Then we moved on to some tiny fried frogs, eaten whole.
Then, after the tapas, we sat down on a blanket under a canopy for the barbecue. There was sticky rice cooked inside a bamboo cane, roasted corn basted with coconut milk – and finally the meat … barbecued stuffed frogs. They were stuffed with spiced pork, threaded onto skewers and cooked to a rich, golden brown.
I thought this was the main course, but it turned out to be merely the hors d’oeuvre, and Sokay and I then whizzed off to a restaurant, where we had cows’ intestine cut in strips (front right in photo) and served with a sauce of fermented fish with peanuts, chilli and lime, and beef with red ants (front left in photo).
We finished up at a rice wine distillery, where we tried eight different flavoured rice wines, with a selection of sticky rice and tapioca desserts.
I felt that I held my own very well, and I tried everything – unlike some others on the tour who claimed they were full up after a slice of mango and one tiny grasshopper. Any one of the dishes on its own would have been fine, and I could probably tuck into a few silkworms again one day, but all the dishes together were a bit too much, and I staggered rather queasily to bed, vowing to stick to pizza for the rest of the week.