Take a walk around Pattaya at night time, especially the bustling Pattaya night-life areas of Walking Street, Soi 6, Soi 7, and Soi 8, and you are bound to see a Bug Stall, Bug Cart, Bug Truck, or whatever you want to call them. On these bug stalls, you will see one of Thailand’s favorite snacks, boiled, fried, roasted, steamed, and sometimes still live insects, grubs, arachnids, amphibians, and reptiles. One such bug (see the photos below) is the “Giant Water Bug”, (known as mang dah; Thai: แมงดา) or malaeng da na; Thai: แมลงดานา) a little larger than the average bug, and sometimes mistaken for cooked cockroaches, the “giant water bug” is highly prized in Thailand because it can be eaten or added as an ingredient to popular Thai sauces like Nam Pla Mang Da and Nam Prik Mang Da.
The female giant water bug is usually eaten as a snack in Thailand, the male giant water bug is favoured as an additive to Nam Pla Mang Da and Nam Prik Mang Da because of it’s unique “sweet” aroma produced by the pheromones it uses to attract a mate.
Giant water bugs are said to be especially tasty, having a taste which has been commonly described as very similar to scallops.
Giant water bugs are native to Thailand, they are especially favored as a snack in Issan (North-east Thailand), they are caught by net or light traps, and they are sometimes farmed commercially.
Giant Water Bug Facts.
- Scientific / botanical name: Lethocerus indicus, in Thailand the Giant Water Bug is known as ‘malaeng da na’ or ‘meng da’.
- Besides being a popular snack in Thailand the giant water bug is also regarded as a tasty morsel in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
- Like all bugs eaten in Thailand the giant water bugs are a valuable source of protein and vitamins.
- In their natural habitat they are fierce predators, they prey on small fish, amphibians and crustaceans.
- Similar to a praying mantis, the giant water bug snatches it’s prey with it’s front legs, it then injects it with a powerful toxin which breaks down the internal mass of it’s victim.
- Giant water bugs can and will bite people, they are said to deliver a painful burning pain when they bite.
- They are very proficient fliers and swimmers.
- Giant water bugs are often referred to as “toe biters” in the U.S.A. because they bite the toes of swimmers.
- When threatened they have been known to play dead and secrete fluid from their anus to make them look less appealing.
- Giant water bugs can grow to 5 inches in length.