Martha turns 5 months today and I remember my mother telling me that I ate insects at her age, mainly grasshoppers. I wonder, then, what it was in that grasshopper that seemed so appetizing to me – or whether it was just a natural inclination to eat voraciously rearing it’s head at so early an age.
Eating insects is not something done by Westerners on a regular basis, but our Asian brothers and sisters consider it the norm. Entomophagy (the eating of insects) is encouraged by scientists and dietitians around the world as it is considered to be a very healthy and sustainable food source. Be that as it may, the following three strike me as really odd!
The Giant Water Beetle (Lethocerus indicus)
The Thai people eat grasshoppers, roasted, spicy crickets, fried bamboo, worm larvae and maeng daa. Maeng daa is the giant water beetle and is prized for it’s “subtle fishy flavour”.
They must be eaten very fresh and are usually stir fried with spring onions, chili and garlic. The Cantonese, whom I hold in high regard when it comes to cooking, drop this delicacy into boiling salted water and then season it – a rare treat, they say.
The Leafcutter Ant
The Brazilian’s love to eat this ant. Why, I do not know – but every one of my Brazilian friends rate these little creatures very highly. Even the famous author, Monteiro Lobato, referred to them as the poor man’s caviar – as far as I’m concerned, it’s a far cry from the subject of discussion in my last article so I’ll just stick to the rich man’s caviar. Between the months of September and November, just before they grow wings to leave their nests for mating purposes, the females (the içá) are harvested by man and eaten. What I find most odd is that the head, legs, wings and the outer shell (the thorax) are nipped off and only the rest is eaten, fried in fat, as opposed to oil and then served dusted with corn flour.
This is eaten in the Far East and in Mexico. In most of the Far East (from Japan to Vietnam) the fat yellow larvae are served with the honeycomb – often eaten alive, fresh from the hive. They can also be fried in oil with salt and pepper or chili to create a crisp snack. For desert they are fried with soy sauce and palm sugar. The little larvae are marinated in onion, lemongrass and coconut cream in China and when marinated, wrapped in linen to be steamed for 20 minutes, then served with either rice or noodles. In Japan you can even buy the preserved larvae tinned in soybean oil – if you are keen, look out for tins selling hachinoko. In Mexico they are served covered in chocolate.
To all our Asian readers, bon appetito and to those of you that want to try it – I do suggest you go to an Asian restaurant first, they are the experts after all.