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Visitors flock to four-ways for Vatsira's insect-friendly fare

nsects have long been a favourite local snack in Laos but are now also proving increasingly successful in attracting curious foreign tourist groups to 4 Junction Beer Vatsira in the heart of Vientiane.

With the familiar festoonery of the national brew, the shop known to locals simply as Vatsira may look like any regular humble haunt for enjoying an afternoon or evening beer in the capital.

Fried grasshoppers and crickets prove and delicacy for some.

Yet a closer look reveals a secret to its success being the offering of a menu of insects to foreigners and local people alike.

Of course, in some South-east Asian countries like Laos and unlike in Europe or North America, insects are a favorite snack for local people especially in rural areas.

So, these are attractive for western and other tourists who may want to try the taste of these bugs not usually served up in their own countries.

As a reporter, I have experienced travel through nine south-east Asian nations, with the exception of Brunei that I still look forward to visiting.

Of these countries, I have found insects to be most popular as a local delicacy not only in my own country of Laos but also in Cambodia and Thailand.

In Cambodia, vendors sell insects along streets, especially seen in Phnom Penh, the capital.

Meanwhile, in Thailand, vendors have been seen to sell insects along the roads or in front of the shopping malls in Bangkok and other provinces of the country's Laos-bordering North-East such as Nongkhai and Oudon Ratchathani.

Fried cricket and fried grasshopper are the insects most often cooked for consumption in these countries.

In Laos, insects are sold at local markets from northern to central and southern parts.

In the capital Vientiane, you can find the critters you desire and more at local markets at Dongmakkhai, That Luang, Nongn iew, Nam Xuang (near Nam Xuang reservoir).

Furthermore, insects are also cooked to serve local people and foreign visitors at some beer shops in the capital such as Vatsira.

The charming if modest colonial era building is located on the corner of four-way intersection corner in Xiengnyeun village of Chanthabouly district in the capital a block back from the Lao Plaza Hotel.

In the c onvivial style of the region, eating and drinking is best enjoyed in fresh air under wide awnings and by the sidewalk cooled down with an icy libation.

Owner Mr Vatsira Chanthavongxay said that the shop's success was a combination of many factors including teamwork close to home.

“My wife and I help each other to find different foods or snack for enjoying with beer such as insects and other local food,” he confided.

“That why my shop is different to other beer shops because I have a menu of insects and local snacks.

“It not only attracts local people but also some tour companies who bring foreign tourists to taste and experience eating insects here,” he said.

“Our target has always been the local market, so I never thought that it would become a place to attract foreign visitors or tour groups to come to my shop to taste the insects on the menu.”

The shop serves around three tour groups with 10 to 20 visitors in each group monthly.

Most of these guests are from western countries and enjoy the novelty and excitement of eating insects, he said.

He said most order fried cricket and grasshopper as a snack to enjoy with beer.

Furthermore, his shop also serves baked or fried eel, fried dried frogs, pickled vegetables and fried cattle jawbones popular with local customers.

His shop sells its local food and insect menu starting at the very reasonable price of just 20,000kip per plate.

His customers appreciate the fair price and many consider his shop a very friendly and heartening pit stop between workplace and home.

Vatsira first opened its doors in 1993 and has been doing so daily most afternoons since from about 4 pm.

The establishment is located at Xiengnyeun village of Chanthabouly district in the central business district.

It is sited on the corner of the four junction road to close to the Lao National Radio, Chao Anouvong Stadium, Lao Plaza Hotel, Settha Palace Hotel and other accommodations as well as restaurants and shops.

Deputy Director of Livestock and Fishery Department of Agriculture Faculty, the National University of Laos, Associate Professor Thonglorm Phommavong said that edible insects were good for health because they shared nutrients with five nutrition food groups such as grain, vegetable, fruits, milk and meat.

He added the insects also had high amounts of minerals and contained about 34 percent protein.

Therefore, eating insects provide similar benefits to eggs and meat.

“Local people in rural areas do not regularly dine on meat because it is quite pricey,” Professor Thonglorm said.

“So, instead they can eat insect to receive protein.”

So, we also do the nutrition programmes and suggest cooking crickets to mix with noodles for stude nts in rural areas,” he said.

“Of course, when it comes to eating grasshoppers or crickets, some people in the city have an allergy while people in the countryside very rarely do so.”

To try your luck, get yourself and a friend or two to downtown Vientiane and find your new favourite drinking snack with the friendly en couragement of the husband and wife team at 4 Junction Beer Vatsira.

 

 

 

 

 

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update July 26, 2017)

 

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