Are sand fleas real

Thailand: grilled sand fleas and cabbage salad on Phuket

There is fried fern. Grilled sand fleas, tiger claw salad and termite mushrooms. Premchit Prateap, 46, cooks like her ancestors and only has exotic foods on the pan with rare ingredients. It steams, stirs and sizzles - without a cookbook.

The delicate dishes contain neither artificial sugar, fish sauce nor oyster sauce - the ubiquitous flavor enhancers in today's Thai cuisine. Instead, ingredients such as seafood, herbs and rainforest fruits, which are difficult to find even in the rich Thai markets with their almost unmanageable range. Because they have been supplanted by the modern gastro monotony that also exists in Thai cuisine.

There are also cicadas, maggots, grasshoppers and ant eggs in the markets. These poor people's snacks were brought in by destitute immigrants from northeast Thailand. On Phuket they are used for tourist folklore and for tests of courage.

For example at the weekend market in Phuket City, at the booth of Nan and her husband. They also have bamboo worms, rice beetles and crickets on display. Some they collect themselves, in forests and wetlands. But most of it is bred.

Traditional rainforest cuisine

“Many customers just look, and some just want to take pictures,” says Nan. Nan likes to offer tourists something to try, such as grasshoppers. “Many are surprised at how spicy they taste.” She herself comes from the south, loves red seafood chilli and only sells the fried croissants because it's a profitable business.

The traditional native rainforest cuisine has died out. Nearly. Because Premchit Prateap upholds the almost forgotten recipes of their ancestors. These populated southern parts of Phang-Nga Province and the northern part of Phuket - until a hundred years ago covered almost exclusively by rainforest.

The island was previously called Junk Ceylon, later Thalang. The northernmost province of Phuket is still called that today. Premchit therefore calls their kitchen Thalang cuisine.

Norman Jones, the husband of Premchit, a well-traveled Australian, is fascinated by traditional food in Phuket. About the wealth of plants on the island and the recipes from Premchit's ancestors. Together they catch, pick and collect the rare ingredients.

Delicate sand fleas

On the quiet, idyllic beach of Mai Khao in the north of Phuket, it is brooding hot in the morning. Premchit Prateap plows the wet sand with their feet. Not just out of sheer joy and digs up the hiding places of the sand fleas, which then go into the net of a friend from the village, one of the last sand flea fishermen in Phuket with a self-made net.

To avoid misunderstandings: The sand fleas are not those tiny pests of the same name that can turn a day at sea into a martyrdom, but a species of beach crab that only lives where the waves run out onto land. In the so-called crusher zone. Their appearance is reminiscent of oversized woodlice.

Its scientific name is: Emerita talpoida. They are five to six centimeters tall and have the same taste as mild crab meat. A feast for previous generations.

Rare ferns

Premchit Prateap has an abundant need for exotic foods. Your Thalang cuisine consists almost entirely of such ingredients. Mainly from fruits of the rainforest, the collection of which is associated with some effort. For example from a special fern that only thrives under the stink fruit trees, only on certain rivers and only during the rainy season.