Do People Really Eat Ant Egg Soup?
Believe it or not, Thais and people all over Asia eat red ant eggs. It’s like eating fish eggs, but they are smaller and less juicy. Red Weaver Ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) are the best eggs to eat with soup, salads, or as an addition to whatever you happen to be eating!
Eating ant eggs is a traditional dish of Northeastern Thailand (Isaan) and Laos, and is known as Gaeng Kai Mot Daeng (แกงไข่มดแดง) in Thai and Gaeng Khai Moht (ແກງໄຂ່ມົດແດງ) in Laotian language. The soup is made with ant eggs, snakehead fish (any fish), garlic, galangal, lemongrass, tamarind bean, lime juice, basil leaves, tomatoes, and fish stock.
The ants are a valuable source of protein for many people in Southeast Asia, and their eggs are considered to be a delicacy.
Red weaver ants are social insects that live in large colonies. They build their nests on trees and shrubs oftentimes close to the ground. They bend leaves over and seal them with silk, or group leaves and seal them all together to form a nest where the eggs are placed to develop.
The white stuff that weaver ants use to seal up their nests is called silk. It is a protein-based fiber that is produced by the weaver ants.
The silk that weaver ants produce is very strong and durable. It is also waterproof, which helps to protect the nest from the elements
Weaver ants are known for aggressively protecting their nest and eggs. They wait motionless on the branches and leaves for some animal to bother the nest, and then they quickly attack and bite.
Thai red ant soup is a hearty and flavorful soup. The ant eggs give the soup a slightly sour spicy and nutty flavor. The soup is typically served with rice and a side of vegetables.
Weaver ants are also used in other Thai dishes, such as omelets, salads, and curries. Ant eggs are also sometimes roasted and eaten alone. Thais in the countryside most often eat this because the ants are all around them and they can use it as a quick and free source of nutrition.
Weaver ants are an important part of the Thai ecosystem. They help to control pests and pollinate plants. However, the overharvesting of ant eggs can have a negative impact on ant populations. It is important to harvest ant eggs sustainably and to leave enough eggs behind so that the colony can continue to thrive.
Usually in Thailand that is not a problem because these ants seem to be everywhere you look.
Ant Egg Story from Sisaket, Thailand
It was an amazing dinner two nights ago. We thought we were going out to eat because grandma didn’t give us forewarning, but, she had secretly made one of our Thai favorites – Spicy Red Ant Egg Soup!
We all sat down, and with the exception of our little girl, Mali, dove in and enjoyed this unique soup I’d never tasted before!
This is a traditional Isaan (northeastern) Thailand soup that Grandma said she first had when she was about three years old. Though we haven’t started to give our five-year-old daughter any spicy Thai food yet, those who grew up in the northeast have been eating it since they were babies.
I have seen kids as young as 2-3 years old eating spicy food here. I don’t know if it’s right. The kids aren’t crying, they enjoy it I guess. Maybe they don’t understand pain in the same way we do in the USA. Lol. In the US, we think anything spicy hurts.
Maybe they look at it differently in Thailand? Not sure.
The ant eggs come from the red weaver ants from the genus, Oecophylla that weave a nest of silk for their egg development. These nests are easy to spot, but not easy to reach in most cases.
If you try to cut the branch a nest is hanging from, the red weaver ants quickly cover your arm and body and bite and hang on! Not very fun, I can assure you. Grandma is an absolute pro at this, and I saw her do it by herself in the yard in Sisaket where she grew up.
She put a big 5-gallon water bucket with water in it under the low-lying branch of the tree. She had a small hacksaw. She quickly grabbed the branch and sawed through it, dropping the red weaver ant nest expertly into the bucket!
The ants abandoned the nest over time and before long she had the nest on a big tray and was pulling open the sealed leaves to reach the delicious eggs.
I’ll have to get a photo of an ant-egg nest around the house here. Shouldn’t take too long! Took about 4 hours from when I wrote that! I found one on the way up the hill where I exercise.
And, here is a video Joy made about our spontaneous Thai spicy red ant (weaver ants) egg soup that you can see below. Our daughter had something wonderful to say about the soup – listen close to hear it.