Red ant egg salad

Red ant egg salad

Luke Nguyen's Greater Mekong
Stuart Scott

At a small village not far from Don Khone, I was given a long bamboo pole with a basket tied to one end. I was told to raise the basket up under a tree branch, beneath an ants’ nest, and shake vigorously. Hundreds of ants fell into the basket, but many dozens landed on my head and down my shirt — I was bitten everywhere! It was the first time I could honestly say I had ‘ants in my pants’! After the stinging subsided, I scooped the red ants and their larvae into a bucket of cold water. They were washed, strained, then tossed into this salad. As the ants dried o­ff, they came back to life and tried to crawl out of the salad bowl. I was told I had to eat them alive. One bit the inside of my mouth as I took a bite — but the eggs were a textural delight, popping as I bit into them. This salad was one of the most exciting and craziest dishes that I’ve ever made and eaten in South-East Asia. Loved it!


Quantity Ingredient
3 tablespoons red ant eggs
2 spring onions, finely sliced
3 red asian shallots, finely sliced
2 lemongrass stems, finely sliced
1 small handful coriander, sliced
10 mint leaves, sliced
10 vietnamese mint leaves, sliced
3 saw-tooth coriander leaves, sliced
1 teaspoon padek
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon chilli –flakes
1 teaspoon toasted rice, (see note)
1 lime, juiced
10 chinese cabbage leaves


  1. Combine all the ingredients, except the cabbage leaves, in a mixing bowl. Toss together well, then transfer to a serving platter.
  2. Serve the cabbage leaves with the salad, using them as a ‘spoon’ to eat the salad with.


  • Lao people use toasted rice powder in dishes such as laap, and for dipping unripe fruit in, such as pomelo, green mango, tamarind and guava. Heat a frying pan or wok over medium heat and dry-roast 100 g uncooked glutinous rice for 8–10 minutes, until lightly browned, tossing occasionally. (For a smokier –flavour, allow the rice to turn a deeper shade of brown; to make your rice powder more perfumed, you can also dry-roast the rice with chilli, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves.) Remove from the heat and allow to cool, then pound to a powder using a large mortar and pestle. It is best used fresh, but can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for several weeks.
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