The Na Si market in Hat Lot Town, Son La Province opens from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. Apart from the usual assortment of vegetables, fruits and meat, the 500 square-meter market also sells various insect species, some hunted in nature, others bred.
July seems to be a time when many insects reproduce, allowing vendors to bring locusts, dragonfly larvae, cicadas, bamboo worms, crickets and many other species to the market. Depending on the species, farmers bring in two to 10 kilograms each. Some are sold by weight and others by number. For instance, a cricket costs VND1,000 (5 cents).
While in some countries, eating insects a last resort solution to tackle hunger, a number of people in Vietnam and other Asian countries have been savoring them as protein rich food for a long time.
The dragonfly larvae appear after the dragonflies lay their eggs on aquatic plants. Farmers/vendors say they taste great when roasted with lime leaves or grilled in banana leaves. The larvae cost VND300,000 ($13) a kilogram.
Grasshoppers come in two varieties, grass-fed in the forest and bamboo-fed in the field. The long-bodied insects have a shiny yellowish green coat and have black spots on their legs.
Frogs are a local favorite. Vendor Lo Thi Hoai, a Song Ma District resident, is not an insect hunter herself, she buys them from the farmers and sells them at the market. “The villagers go on the hunt for the insects and frogs all day and night. Everyday I travel about 100 km to the market,” she said.
“This is the only market [in Son La Province] with such large consumption of insects.”
The frogs Hoai sells are found in rivers and rice fields. Chefs usually fry them with lemongrass and bamboo shoots.
Apart from insects, many types of fish, shrimps, loach and eels caught in rivers and streams add diversity to market fauna.
The Black Thai ethnic minority community also make a living in this market selling cooked dishes. They reside in Mai Chau District, Hoa Binh Province, 4 hours east of Hat Lot Town.