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Crispy Thai Chili Maeng Da (and a cold beer)


Deep-fried giant water bugs. Photo: Takoradee, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Giant Water Bug is eaten in a variety of ways in Southeast Asia. Concentrated essence or chili sauce which uses the bugs as a base might sound better for ‘entry-level’ entomophagy, though it’s worth noting that the ‘Mangda Essence’ sold in supermarkets is often synthetic.

Quick tip though – if in Thailand, be cautious when asking for this dish, as it’s also an unsavoury slang word...

How to get them?

Maeng Da (Giant Water Bugs) are notoriously expensive, being a prized delicacy in areas where they’re commonly eaten. Some companies now import frozen or dehyrated specimens from south-east Asia, again at a fairly high price.

Recipe: Giant Water Bug, crispy-fried


  • 6-8 large giant water bugs
  • Oil
  • Chopped onions
  • 2-3 chopped garlic cloves
  • Thai red chili and white pepper, to taste

This is a pretty simple recipe using a wok to crisp up the bugs. Just heat the oil until it’s smoking, then add the chilis and the water bugs. Stir fry for several minutes, then add the remaining ingredients except the white pepper. Keep frying until onions are tender and everything’s cooked. Add white pepper at the end, to dust. 

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