Aug 2008


With my days in Saigon winding down, I made a list of foods I had to eat before bidding this fair city farewell. I’ve been indulging in my favorite foods throughout my stay, so the bulk of the list consisted of items I’ve been hesitant to try.

Americans are pretty open minded about food, but have yet to embrace bugs like the folks in Southeast Asia. Kids in these here parts (especially in Thailand) are rewarded with bugs in the same way Western kids are given candy for a job well done. The thought of returning back to America and not having the option of eating bugs struck me as kind of sad, so I bit the bullet and sought out some silk worms (nhong).

The deed was done at a com binh dan joint on Mai Thi Luu Street in District 1. We arrived at 10 AM because I came by on a different day at 1 PM and they were fresh out of nhong. I ordered a small plate along with a plate of rice.

According to the chef, the silkworm carcasses are stir-friend in cooking oil along with fish sauce and scallions to bring out their natural goodness. She also informed me that this is a northern delicacy and that the Saigonese usually don’t find it palatable.

Stir-fried silkworm carcasses taste a lot like dried shirmps (tom kho), but with an extra spurt of guts/moisture. The fish sauce adds a bit of saltiness that enhances the overall flavor, but to truly make them appetizing, it would take a village.

Silkworms—they’re okay, but miles from delicious.

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17 thoughts on “Nhộng

  1. I loved your last comment! I won’t be rushing to try these anytime soon. A friend of mine that grew up in the provinces of the Philippines remembers tying string to large beetles and having them fly in circles around their heads. When they were tired of playing with them, her mom would fry them up and they’d have a snack. I don’t see that happening much in America! 🙂

  2. You are one brave woman! I think I’ll go look at something else now to forget about that plate of worms. >.<

  3. Kudos for your bravery. I’ll take your word for it and will not try these creatures ( look like they came out of the Lion King movie with Timon and Pumba’s lunch of grubs). I am sure they are full of proteins ( and probably something else) but I’d prefer my protein source from a steak.

  4. I was in Seoul and they sold these little creatures roasted in a wok and god, the smell was unbearable…I wanted to throw up.

    No, you can’t leave Saigon…where am I going to get my daily delicious food review from my hometown? 🙂

  5. hmmm, your picture of the bugs make them look somewhat delicious, but your description doesn’t make me want to try them!

  6. I had these, nhộng tằm, before. However, I’ve never eaten nhộng ong or nhộng ve and probably never will.

  7. I would eat those once for the experience, but definitely not as a meal. I’ve eaten roasted spiders in Cambodia, but those worms kinda gross me out.
    Have you tried rươi (some kind of worms, in chả rươi)? Another Northern delicacy. I wouldn’t say it’s delicious or anything special, but it’s worth a shot, for the “Fear Factor” factor.

  8. WC – I was HOPING they’d taste like peanut butter, but I definitely found the flavor more shrimpy than nutty.

    Fran – Fried beetles sound like an extra-crunchy snack! I doubt they go down as smoothly as silk worms.

    Tia – Appologies for killing your appetite 😉 Go to tastespotting immediately!

    Beautran – No doubt steak > silk worms, but when in Rome…

    James – No worries, I’ve got lots more Viet food to share.

    Foodhoe – This is a rare case where it’s best to live vicariously through the blog 😉

    NN – Silk worms are the first insects I’ve ever eaten. It’s strange what sentimental feelings can do to one’s appetite!

    Long – Definitely a good call.

  9. No, no Wandering Chopsticks!! You CAN get them in America!! Korean markets have these canned and I find them so yummy. I think the canned versions says yummy with beer. I can eat these little ones right out from the can or heated up and I’ll drink the ‘broth’ too. These are yummy to me. My parents introduced them to us after they came back from Korea. 🙂 It is quite tasty with some Tabasco!

    I don’t know why, but I find them very yummy and for a while I was addicted and ate a can a night but my mom says that they are high in cholesterol so I stopped indulging. And after cans and cans, my appetite has been appeased for a while, until now 😉 Thankfully, I still have a few cans in the pantry.

  10. “Silkworms—they’re okay, but miles from delicious.”

    Of course they’re far from delicious because they belong to the group of “acquired taste” foods. As expensive and classy as sushi, alot of them are NOT by far delicious / tasty. People either like them or strongly dislike them or simply eat them as a fad.

  11. I actually found some Nhong or Frozen Dade at an asian market here in Kansas City. There are $2.99 a pack. I watch Andrew Zimmern Bizarre foods all the time and thought if he can why am I suck a wimp but I bought them and siked myself up to sitr fry them in fish sauce rice wine, soy sauce and veggies over rice, but after thawing them out I chicken out and threw them away. One day I will be brave. I think if they were more crunchy and less mushy guts on the inside I might eat them. The only bug I will try is June Bugs and I am scouting for them.

  12. The 99 Asian markets in California carry these. Boil them in chicken broth, then place your rice noodles in the broth for 2 minutes till soft and place the noodles broth and nhong in the bowl. The boiling make them swell like tiny balloons so when you bite into the
    they burst with a pop of festive colors in your mouth and you can taste the mulberry leaves which they have been eating on. Much better than the over fried and drowned in spices taste.

  13. I’m a white guy and I’ve eaten roasted silkworms in China multiple times. The first one was the hardest. But it was palatable. Kind of like just something to munch on over beers. Then the novelty of it set in and I was like, “Wow, I’m eating bugs, and it isn’t disgusting! I want more.” And I actually grew to like it. The way they were prepared was on a skewer with pepper and spices and it’s pretty tasty. So now I’m in HCMC and I’m hoping to repeat the experience. Thanks for your blog.

  14. Insects are a great source of protein, and if you can get past your phobias, quite tasty. Locusts are the nuttiest, mildest flavored. In Thailand they have a large bug that looks like a giant cockroach (don’t know the name) which is the tastiest of the ones I tried. Silkworms are ok, but not my favorite. The larval stage is better than the worm. Try it, you’ll like it!

  15. Sergei, I’m pretty sure the Thai bugs you’re thinking of are Maengdana which are a particular type of water beetle.

  16. I just tried some of these that I had sitting in the freezer for months, and previously couldn’t get up the courage for. I was expecting them to be freezer-burned, but luckily quite all right. Fried ’em in coconut oil (butter would be good also, I think). The flavor is kind of bland, texture likewise. (If the squishy texture bothers you, they can be cooked longer so they dry out.) If you can eat shellfish or squid, you should have no problem. I could develop a strong yen for them. They’re said to be one of the most efficient protein sources of all, about 10X “greener” than beef. As insects go (I have also tried grasshoppers and fried ants), these are the best IMO. They deserve to be more popular.

  17. P.S. They are actually the pupa stage and are a byproduct of silk production (what’s left when you unwind the cocoon). (Insect metamorphosis goes egg-larva-pupa-adult.)

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