Entomophagy: Creating a "Buzz" in the Culinary World
As a chef I like to keep on top of the food trends. Thinking outside of the box keeps chefs at the top of their game and in the news.
A few years ago vegetarian, vegan and raw foods were the areas being explored. Then molecular gastronomy, the preparation of food using techniques and equipment often found in a laboratory came into popularity. Lately "Snout to Tail" cooking - preparing every part of the animal for consumption without waste. Now the buzz (pun intended) is entomophagy! That’s "ento" as in entomologist the study of bugs. In this case entomophagy pertains to the eating of bugs.
My First Reaction? I'll Have To Admit - "Gross!"
I mean, I’d like to think I have an open mind when it comes to food. I’ve tried pig face, bone marrow and will eat raw fish - but a BUG?! I had a hard time with the whole bug thing, but then I started thinking about many of the foods I currently eat. Let’s take a lobster for example. Look at it! It crawls on the floor of the ocean and eats dead fish and other dead aquatic life. It actually looks like a giant bug! And how about hot dogs(you don’t even want to know)?
And then there's the fact that many cultures have been eating bugs for years.
- In Mexico and South America "capulines", or grasshoppers are enjoyed sauted with garlic, onions and chiles, sprinkled with salt and drizzled with lime juice.
- French enjoy earthworms in omeletes - they're said to taste very similar to bacon!
- Native Americans roasted june bugs like popcorn and pillbugs, which are actually related to crabs and lobster, turn red when boiled and are said to taste quite similar to both.
- Asian countries - China, Japan, Thailand, Korea - those cultures who are KNOWN for their incredible food - are all savvy bug-eating cultures.
- In Africa, mopane worms (actually more like grubs) are dried, eaten like jerky and are so prized they can fetch a higher price than beef!
- South Americans enjoy flying ants which they say taste like buttery pork rinds.
- Australians like their wichetty grubs which they describe as tasting like nutty scrambled eggs with mozzarella cheese.
Seems like we Americans are just behind the loop! My repulsion with eating bugs is simply mental. If I can get over the thought of eating a pig’s face why can’t I get over eating a cricket or a grasshopper?
Low Cost, High Protein, Low Fat, Eco-Friendly
The major advantage to bug consumption is that they contain a very high amount of protein and nutrients that we as humans need. They are less costly to grow, grow faster and without the need for grains which can be left for human consumption and are much more ecologically friendly than traditional live-stocking.
With increasing costs and populations and the decrease in farmable land, scientist and food experts are looking for alternative ways to grow and raise our foods. And they are also looking at alternative sources of foods. Insects seem to be natural progression.
In my opinion I don’t think we are too far away from entomophagy becoming mainstream. As a matter of fact there are already several restaurants with insects on the menu.
Bee-L.T. From Girl Meets Bug (Patty made from Bee Larvae)
"Bee larvae, when sauteed with a little butter and a few drops of honey, taste very much like bacon...
Sautee the bee larvae in the butter, with a tiny bit of salt and a few drops of honey. Once larvae become golden brown and crispy-looking, remove, and mix into enough egg white to cover and bind them into a mass. Then return them to the sautee butter, pressing them together into a patty.
Toast bread, and slice tomato. Spread mayonnaise on toasted bread when ready. When bee patty becomes firm, place it atop the lettuce and tomato on the sandwich. Enjoy!"
Ant Egg Salad - Very Popular Cambodian Dish
"While exploring the Thai Northeast (often called Isarn among other things, my friend Patty and I encountered some pretty strange dishes. One of the most interesting, in my opinion, was Spicy Red Ant Egg Salad... The Thais are famous for eating a large variety of plant, animal, and insect life...I asked if the ants are like… farmed… because I know there are cricket farms in Thailand. I actually visited one in the Korat province on this trip. I was told that most of the crickets are actually exported to nearby Cambodia. Anyhow… apparently the red ants are NOT farmed and are just harvested from natural nests in fruit trees, usually mango."
Roast Crickets and Shoe-String Potatoes
Said actress Angelina Jolie:
"My boys love to eat crickets. It’s their favorite thing... When I first gave it to them, I thought, I wanted them to understand culturally, I didn’t want them to be turned off by something that was their culture...They ate them like Doritos and they wouldn’t stop. They brought to-go boxes home and I had to actually ban the cricket eating at a certain point because I was afraid they’d get sick from too many!...They're good - they are like a potato chip,"
If your mouth is watering and you are getting antsy to try a dish of with bugs there are several websites that have some interesting recipe for you to try.