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La Thaïlande : le royaume des fermes d’insectes – LCM #3

December 6, 2019

Thailand is regarded as the south-eastern capital of edible insects Mostly consumed in northern and rural areas, they can nowadays be found at 7-eleven next to the crisps, or even in supermarkets in the game section Each region of Thailand has its speciality but what can be found everywhere on the nightmarkets it’s mostly crickets, locusts, silkworms, bamboo caterpillars, ant eggs, giant water bugs, sago worms, and sometimes little beetles, fried and ready to eat Like in Cambodia, insects are wild-harvested by trapping them with torches and neons and like in Cambodia, they’re mostly eaten in the countryside In the cities, insects have been considered as “food for the poor” but during the last decades, the demand has exploded which is really inconvenient, as there has also been a big rural exodus Too bad, it was the farmers who provided Thailand with insects. So Thailand must import them from neighbouring countries like Laos or Cambodia who are still very rural Here, in Aranyaprathet on the thai / cambodian frontier one of the countrie’s biggest wholesale markets is a real hub for the south-east asian edible insect market But importing wild-harvested insects is not the only way to supply Thailand The other way is farming And this is the main difference between Thailand and other insect-eating countries It’s one of the world’s only places to develop a sustainable insect-farming sector Which is why, in this episode, we’ll show you the different ways of raising insects that were developed in Thailand Let’s go. First of all, a little intro In order for farming to be more interesting than wild-harvesting the farming system must be productive and cheap Here’s the thing, though Wild-harvesting insects is quite convenient when you think of it The environment is the perfect farm It gives food and shelter for free Then again, all the bugs are eaten by predators so yeah, not that great a farm after all True, it’s pretty shit Yeah. To build a sustainable insect farm it must produce a lot with little constraints while simulating the insect’s living conditions And that’s not something you can do with every species Ideally, we’ll want a bug that fulfills these conditions He must live in dense populations He must be easy to feed and he must have short life cycles while being very prolific As seen in Cambodia, critters like tarantulas are not great candidates Same for the very popular giant water bug Some sort of aquatic fucker that munches on turtles and snakes And they even become cannibals if raised in high densities That’s not exactly convenient. But do you know what would be? That’s right, it’s the cricket. And they happen to be the most popular bug in Thailand! In Thailand, cricket farming started to soar about 20 years ago Today there are about 20 000 farms of all sizes in the country But it’s in the Isan region, in the North-east where the crickets are the most popular So we went in the Khon Kaen countryside to visit Khun Mali cricket farmer since 2011 For Khun Mali, everything started at her daughter’s wedding when she got crickets for the guests and she found out the selling price of the insects Determined to make money and equipped with a big bowl of cricket eggs, she started her farm, that grew big ever since and even required an additional building Here, the crickets are raised about the same as in Cambodia but at a bigger scale As we say around here Same same, but different From hatching to adulthood, the crickets do their entire life cycle in the pens They’re harvested once they reproduced and they laid their eggs, that will be spread through the pens for the next generation And farming crickets is profitable By producing 2 to 3 tons of insects per month, Khun Mali makes a nice turnover Yeah, that’s a bit better than harvesting them by hand in the rice field This is the classic way of cooking crickets They’re fried directly with kaffir leaves and then seasoned with flavouring powder Very important, the flavouring powder It’s used for every meal in south-east Asia They can also be used in omelette or in salad as croutons Oh, that’s not bad The cooking is perfect it’s crunchy, and not totally burned and the seasoning goes well with the locust’s flavour of the cricket sorry The Isan region is known for its difficult conditions Like in Cambodia, in the olden days, the farmers collected what they could in the rice fields during the day for dinner This included frogs, small fish and also Bugs There’s a thai proverb saying “people from Isan eat everything” That’s why in the cities insects have been considered as a “poor man’s food” They’re mostly eaten by people originating from the countryside who see them as a regional speciality from their home But the recent development of cricket farms and the raising awareness of environmental problems contributed to their soaring popularity during the last decade Do you think the isanian in Bangkok make fun of their friends who buy overpriced crickets at 7-eleven because that’s not how their grandmother made them? No no, it’s ISANIAN, not ITALIAN Apart from the crickets there’s another popular insects in the thai markets Let’s go to the Phitsanulok district to visit a very special farm Here we are, in the province of Phitsanulok in Bun Joo’s very special farm The mango trees in his orchad mainly produce mangoes but not exclusively They also host weaver ants The weaver ants are usually wild-harvested but it’s not rare that south-east asian fruit growers help them develop in their orchads for a very simple reason they obliterate parasites So, just to see Bun Joo started harvesting is farm’s ants to sell them on the market with his mangoes And then, wham! It’s plot twist time. So, how do you farm weaver ants? Spoiler alert: they are not farmed. Contrary to the crickets the ants are organized self-managed and independent They don’t need no human to tell them what to do or in which tree to settle It’s less about farming them than it is about helping them develop nicely everywhere in the orchad And it requires little hardware a thread network through the plantation access to water here and there and it’s ready They manage to build their nest spreading from tree to tree out of predators’ reach and most of all, finding their food A.K.A: the parasites From the cochineal to the soldier fly it’s about 250 parasites who methodically destroy the brave worker’s mangoes everyday More parasites to end up in the plates of our little self-managed ant community This type of farming requires very little handling All Bun Joo needs to do is giving them an extra snack each day The orchad’s conditions correspond to the ants’ natural environment they’re easy to feed I guess you could say they are f’ANT-astic candidates for farming! *dab* What we eat in ants are the queens who lay eggs in the colonies the flying ants who are the only sexed individuals able to mate and the so-called ant eggs which are not really eggs but rather the larvae and the nymphs A bit like the wasps and hornets As usual, it’s the more tender stages who are the most appreciated and in hymenoptera, the family of ants, wasps, and hornets the most tender states are larvae and nymphs The weaver ants build their nests in the tree branches by weaving the big leaves together with the silk produced by their larvae That’s why they are called weaver ants and not carpenter ants or chief happiness officer ants Once the nest is built they start laying eggs after one week and soon, we start seeing signs the nest can be harvested To harvest the contents of the nest you put on protection boots you attach a big bag on a long stick you pierce through the leaves and you shake to get the bugs It’s a non-destructive method because it doesn’t kill the colony What you need to know about red ants it’s that there’s one thing they love it’s when a guy comes and non-destructively plants a stick in their nest in order to steal all their babies You have no idea how much they love this So, in order to show us how very happy they are they come give us lots of kisses We keep getting bitten by the ants I was fed up so I started biting them back There you go A small ant They’re actually good They taste like Lemongrass Once the harvest done you need to powder a big plate with rice flour in order to pour the harvest and sort them The workers will leave on their own like the strong and independent hymenoptera they are while leaving their larvae behind because let’s not get ahead of ourselves Holy cow, they even sort themselves on their own Why can’t all farm animals self-manage like this? Well, self-managing yes but with some nuances Clever But, to be fair the ants are so self-managed that their reproduction is not controlled But why are you so obsessed with controlling their reproduction? Respect their intimacy, what did they do to you? Yeah, but it’s to improve the strain That’s basically why we bust our arse farming animals since millenias instead of hunting them in the woods Improving the strain, Bun Joo tried to do that The Bernard Werber readers amongst you know that there’s one thing ants love it’s other ant colonies Two ant colonies will be so friendly to each other that they will kiss and start giant water fights but with formic acid instead of water The ant farming in the orchads also comes with some constraints So, how do you cook the ants? Do you fry them, like all the other insects we saw until now? Well, actually, no Ant cuisine is special Because these insects are not big enough to be snacks, like the crickets Culinary speaking, ants are a seasoning Ant eggs fit perfectly in omelette for instance by giving it a creamy texture And the adults have a crunchy texture like chive and a very strong lemony flavour without the plant after-taste And one recipe that makes great use of ants is the miang The principle of miang is to make a salad generaly with mango or papaya a couple of vegetables chili and peanuts served in small portions rolled up i big leaves like cashew or noni leaves You can make miang with lots of different ingredients including ants and it works great It’s a salad in bite format It’s quite acidic and spicy too The ant’s sourness and the spicyness of chili combined make a very powerful flavour Chili and ants match really well together It’s the best canapé I’ve ever eaten Their role as seasoning make the ants the most integrated insect we have seen until now They are not just fried and eaten as sides they are a full part of the dishes they’re used in creating a harmony of flavours that could not do without them The harmonic place of ants in thai cuisine reflects their harmonic place in thai agriculture Things that makes you go hmmm. Now it is time to visit a different farm The insect reared there are a bit… Nightmary. Remember the scale of insect-eating easiness? Well this one fits right there above the tarantula It’s the second most farmed species in Thailand after the cricket And it can only be found in the south of the country Let’s go to the Surat Thani province to discover a very special farm What you need to know about the thai peninsula is that it’s a forest region where the economy is strongly based on wood cultivation like for instance rubber tree, durian tree, palm trees… So it’s expected that the local iconic insect is also forest-dwelling You can find these pretty jewel beetles some nice crunchy coleoptera But the insect we’re studying today is a bit less shiny and a bit more terrifying Let me introduce the red palm weevil a parasitic coleoptera It doesn’t look that bad Don’t be fooled, that’s the adult What’s eaten is the larva All right, I concede, this is terrifying Sang and New farm their sago worms in basins and feed them with sago wood Yeah, no wonder they’re palm parasites if that’s what they do to the wood… Let’s talk about the life cycle of these cute little larvae All starts with a basin in which you put sago wood a big bowl of pig feed a couple of coconut shells a bit of water and a few bananas you add 10 adults 5 males, 5 females and here we go They will now spend their time eating bananas doing the birds and the bees and laying eggs in the coconut shells “The birds and the bees”, seriously? Yes. Quite odd, for coleoptera. 30 to 40 days later you obtain about 1kg of larvae per basin ready to be harvested and sold 200 baht / kg And Sang also sells the adult weevils He sells them 5 baht What, 5 baht per kilo? 5 baht per weevil Oh WOW Yes, WOW The weevil’s reproduction is actually controlled The insects are put in the basins individually for reproduction Everything’s in place to improve the strain if required Sang sells his insects through all of Thailand Be it for restaurants nightmarkets or even for wholesale supermarkets like here in Makro Speaking of adults how are those ones produced? First of all, for those following The weevil: holometabolous or hemimetabolous? Hemimetabolous Holometabolous, that’s right! Exactly. So, contrary to the cricket you can’t harvest the bugs AFTER they mated Sang keeps a couple of larvae on the side and one month later they turn into nymphs They make cocoons in coconut fiber and 45 days later pretty little red weevils emerge ready to eat bananas and play pattycake One in all, farming palm weevils is a correct alternative to the wild-harvesting To cook these pretty little larvae you need to clean them thoroughly first and boil them You can then fry them in oil and season them with garlic pepper holy basil It’s really good it tastes like spicy marrow with garlic and pepper It tastes a bit like wood strangely If crickets are crisps and ants are spices sago worms are functionnaly closer to meat and can be eaten with rice and vegetables It’s also one of the most fatty acid-rich insects And lipids means Maillard reaction But yeah, it’s often said that insects are healthy it actually depends a lot on the insect and the nutritional needs If you are undernourrished and you need calories the sago worm is right for you but if you’re looking for low fat proteins then you should try the crickets But thai insect-based cuisine is not just done in a traditional way In the cities there are people trying to develop this gastronomy further than fried bugs on the nightmarkets A bit like in Japan and Cambodia, actually And what better place to study thai gastronomy than Chiang Mai, culinary capital of Thailand Chiang Mai is sort of Thailand’s Lyon Or maybe it’s Lyon that’s France’s Chiang Mai? It’s here, at the faculty of sciences of the University of Chiang Mai that we met Dr. Panuwan Her team and her work on a very particular project They put bugs in the test tubes of science All this research aims at the development of new insect-based products like these delicious silkworm nymph spreads or these dried silkworms to snack on It’s really good There’s a lot of taste but it’s the texture that’s especially interesting It’s like cheetos on the outside but inside it’s firm It’s a solid snack that would go really well with a lager a nice fresh lager or a wheatbeer for the contrast The silkworms are also grinded to make a powder that would replace chicken stock which is a current seasoning in thai cuisine Indeed, if we want to use insects as proteins of the future we can hardly live on fried crickets only Hey Annie I’m all for proteins of the future but I’m still persuaded that insects are, well, a bit dirty How do I replace my steak with crickets? Well Seb you are wrong Insects are really good and we’re going to a very special place to meet a team of cooks who will prove it to you Marcel, let’s go to Bangkok no time to play cricket “A very special place”, “a very special place” it’s starting to get old, really. Can’t we visit an ordinary place for once? And this map is starting to be a big mess It’s in the Chang Chui market that you can find Insects in the Backyard On this restaurant’s menu: high cuisine meals with insects Making people want to try insects by showing them how good they are? This reminds me of someone… But who? This revisiting of traditional recipes comes from a recent movement of reappropriation of insects by the thai hipsterish townspeople In order to make people want to eat them Insects in the Backyard turns this popular recipe in a gastronomical top of the line dish It actually reminds me what happened in Europe with bouillabaisse, oysters, and lobster So, will insects be the next lobster? Well, they do look alike. Lobster of tomorrow or lobster of old, where do these insects come from? FARMS? What an atypical and unexpected choice! Could it be that wild-harvesting is… unfit? Hang on, hang on There were locusts on the menu There were waterbug-paste raviolis That’s not exactly convenient insects to farm All right. During our thai stopover it’s true that we mostly saw bugs that were convenient to farm But apparently, you can also farm unconvenient bugs And that’s rather good news Because it would be great to develop insect farming rather than wild-harvesting them For example, ants get rarer and that’s not a good thing Because as predators they give important ecosystem services to regulate parasites It’s actually for these ecosystem services that they’re so beloved from fruit growers But this doesn’t apply to sago worms They are the parasites and wild-harvesting them could be a nice regulation in this region that heavily relies on silviculture The ecosystem services were in us all along But it doesn’t matter because even if farming could help wild population regeneration even those who destroy the harvests it’s still a system that would allow to get quality bugs all year long without importing them and thus, without relying on the fact that the neighbouring countries are still very rural Farming also guarantees the food-grade safety of insects by controlling what they eat Well yes when you find a grasshopper in your garden you never really know where it’s been around In Japan, they reduced the use of chemicals in the fields on purpose to be able to eat the bugs but it’s not like that everywhere And most of the insect farms we saw can fit perfectly in a lot of different production systems It’s a great way to valorize coproducts What’s a coproduct? Well, it’s a product that you made while making the thing you wanted but you didn’t want that one but if you’re not using it, it’s trash so you’d better do something with it Ah, like the silkworm nymphs in the cocoons Like the silkworm nymphs in the cocoons The oly goal of sericulture is to produce silk No farm raises the caterpillars to eat them So technically, selling the nymphs on the market or making spreads out of them are great ways to valorize this coproduct that wouldn’t be of any use otherwise Insect farming is a good way of improving the farmers’ lives by allowing them to diversify their production with a very profitable activity Look at Bun Joo’s ants for example They’re sold for 350 to 500 baht / kg which makes them one of the most expensive bugs on the market More expensive than crickets and even than meat itself Then again, it’s expected, as they are a seasoning Spices don’t sell for 2€ / kg In total, Bun Joo earns 60 to 70 000 baht per year with his ants which is two to three times less than what crickets can make in one month only But having a big turnover is not necessarily Bun Joo’s goal First, because ants are just one farm product amongst others next to his mangoes of course but also his chicken, pigs, geese, snakehead fish frogs, crabs and other vegetables and various aromatic plants Because what you need to understand is that Bun Joo’s farm comes from a very special initiative In Thailand, what they call the Royal Project is an initiative from the Late King who wanted to develop alternative farming methods in the country in order to allow farmers to live from their production to improve their quality of life The idea being that those who make the food should not end up starving (or having to cultivate opium to get by) Insect farming can fit well in this kind of family-owned extensive system which is still very common in the north and north-east That’s convenient it’s precisely in these regions that the most insects are eaten And to develop local insect farming Bun Joo’s farm will become a learning centre to teach fruit growers to farm ants in their orchads For a long time, Khun Mali also taught new cricket farmers who wanted to start insect rearing Her cricket farm was one of the most famous in Thailand Khun Mali’s goal is to help farmers to improve their lives And for her, farming insects is a good solution That’s awesome! I suppose ALL cricket farmers must be so happy to have many new friends and not be alone on the markets anymore Well, actually… One of the cricket farmer’s problems is the lack of cooperation to coordinate The current race to drop the cricket’s prices might run against them on the long term when they’ll need to negociate with the traders And that’s not all Cricket farmers are farmers subjected to the same constraints as the others And one constraints in particular regularly makes a lot of damage in Isan You may have noticed this Khun Mali’s farm is very empty In 2017, heavy floodings ravaged Isan and her farm was one of the first victims Between the reparation costs, her debts the interests, and the cricket feed today, financially Khun Maly is not getting by And that is dramatic But… I don’t het it What about the Royal Project? Improving the farmer’s lives? Aren’t there grants to palliate the bad weathers? Well yes, but… So yeah. Insect farming can help people to improve their lives But the information needs to spread And in spite of the rural exodus Thailand is still a country where the rural areas can be remote A remoteness that farmers can severely suffer from This stop concludes our asian entomo-itinerary and between Japan, Cambodia and Thailand one theme emerges The theme of a traditional activity confronted to modernity Bloody hell Seb, you’ve gotta stop with this platitude We get it, the present is between the past and the future it’s called “TIME” No but yes you’ll see, it matches All right you can say “tradition” and “modernity” 5 times and after that, I’m taking the camera Deal In Japan, insect consumption has long been common in the mountain areas Then, with the agricultural revolution not only did the insect populations decrease but there also were more convenient ways to eat proteins Today, from an agricultural and nutritional point of view Insects in Japan are more a cool tradition in certain mountain areas rather than a nutritional necessity But in Cambodia, it’s the exact opposite as insects are still a big part of a lot of people’s menu in the countrysides It’s not just an interesting local speciality it’s a still nutritionnaly relevant ingredient in khmer food But between the overharvesting and the deforestation threatening the wild tarantula populations They suffer more from the modernity And Thailand in all of this Well, like Cambodia insects are nutritionnaly relevant on the countrysides but unlike in Japan it’s not locked in a traditional practice In spite of a relative lack of interest from the townspeople recent initiatives allowed insect farming to spread, to reach unprecedented levels in the country in order to assess the future needs in food security and to improve the rural development Thailand uses traditional solutions to modern problems No, stop, we’re at six times, you have no lives left Good I’m finished, then. With this being said, we’re leaving you As usual, if you want to try these recipes by yourself you can watch the cooking video in the description As for us, we must now leave Asia for new horizons Next stop: Australia. Where… Where are you going? Seb, what are you doing? Australia is not that way… *Baywatch theme, no Pamela Anderson though :'( *


  • Reply Mikealys Ael February 17, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    Deux musiques de Kingdom Hearts hein? On épuise lentement son dossier musique ou alors c'est KH3 qui influence? xD
    Les vers de palmiers ce ne sont pas ce qu'ils bouffent à une épreuve de Koh Lanta ou Pékin Express et qu'ils doivent retirer la tête parce que toxique (si mes souvenirs sont bon) ? On manque la tête avec ici?
    ça fait mal au coeur pour la dame de la ferme là… :/

  • Reply pierre kiroule February 17, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    Whaaaaa mais vous gérez, super documentaire ! Super qualité malgré le manque d'abo c'est dommage :c

  • Reply Quentin Yves February 17, 2019 at 12:38 pm

    super vidéo, ça fait plaisir de voir aboutir ce projet.

  • Reply Yohan Bonafé February 17, 2019 at 8:09 pm

    Get bugs in your fu**in plate, Shinji. 🙂

  • Reply Spymotox February 18, 2019 at 4:54 pm

    Mais ça donne, genre, vraiment trop faim…
    Ce péiosode 3 a mis moins de temps à arriver que le deuxième, et est toujours aussi génial !

  • Reply Alexandre Gros February 21, 2019 at 6:00 pm

    Vraiment top ! J'me suis bien marré et en plus maintenant j'ai la dalle

  • Reply Danny Vasongele February 25, 2019 at 7:59 pm

    bsr j besoin des savoir comment ses déroulés l elevages des charançons rouges.

  • Reply Danny Vasongele February 26, 2019 at 8:51 am

    merci bcp est se possible de voir les images de la production des charançons rouges et les larves merci.

  • Reply Biged Fromny March 10, 2019 at 9:24 am

    I've seen a cricket farming operation. It's so easy and don't even need much energy input at all.

  • Reply Mauricio Gonzalez August 21, 2019 at 9:28 pm

    I just discovered your channel today now I am a super fan. Keep the good work guys 🙂

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