Maeng Da – Giant Water Bug (Lethocerus indicus)

This big guy was attracted to the lights we leave on at night in our pavilion. I found him in a weakened state under our Japanese-style table in the morning. This is an extremely important food source in many Asian countries because of its strong odor, which it uses to attract mates and is used as a potent flavoring in various dipping sauces. This insect is also eaten whole in Thailand, usually deep fried and then stripped of legs and carapace.

Because of the perceived sexual behavior of this bug (just sitting around attracting females with its scent), the term maeng da has been adapted in Thai slang to mean something like a pimp or useless man who mooches off of women.

No, I did not eat it.

Fish references for Thailand

Fish and Fish Dishes of Laos is my go-to book on any freshwater creatures I see/catch/cook/eat here in SE Asia. It was written by famed British diplomat and historian, Alan Davidson, who included recipes used by the royal cook for the king of Laos. I only have a reprint of this book, which suits me just fine, since I’d feel guilty carrying around an original in the trunk of my car with a short bush pole and a battered old tackle box. I will find the original someday in a used book store in downtown Vientiane, I can just feel it.

I recently found a link to a related e-book (free) that might turn out to be interesting: The Fresh-Water Fishes of Siam, or Thailand. It was published posthumously by Hugh M. Smith, an American ichthyologist and powerful administrator in the Bureau of Fisheries, who spent time in Thailand as adviser to the Thailand fishery service from 1923-1935. I’ve only read a few random pages so far, and it’s pretty interesting.


There are a couple more items I wanted to write about here, but my daughter is insisting that giving her my full attention is more important than going full fish nerd here at this particular time… Ah, well, it is her birthday, after all.