That is unless you live in Mexico, or Thailand, or a number of other countries where eating bugs is considered an ok or even a very nice thing to do. In fact, it’s really only westerners that have a big issue with munching on the occasional creepy crawly, also known as entomophagy.
That could be largely down to the way they are prepared – in Mexico with lots of garlic, chilli, lime and onion and then fried until they are brown and crispy. Delicious.
Although, if you’re planning to make your own, be warned that preparing them can be labour intensive with many recipes calling for you to de-wing and de-leg the little critters before cooking them. And be sure to cook them thoroughly – grasshoppers can contain parasites.
They’re full of protein, good fats, fibre and many essential minerals. In fact, some Mexican species contain 77% protein which is higher than many types of meat.
And there’s no shortage of choice. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has highlighted more than 1,900 edible insect species, many of which are already on the menu for the roughly two billion people who regularly eat either raw or cooked insects.
Even if you won’t be sprinkling them on your daily bowl of porridge, it’s definitely worth giving them a go on your holiday. You might even find that you like them.
The best known example of Aboriginal Aussie “bush tucker” is the witchetty grub – the large, white larva of a large cossid wood moth which is generally only found in central Australia. They can be found among the woody roots of the Witchetty Bush and sometimes the Bloodwood Tree.
Eaten either raw or cooked, the grubs are very high in protein. When raw, they taste like scrambled eggs, and when cooked they taste like chicken (surprise surprise).
Despite their humble start as a food source for poorer Brazilians in rural areas, queen ants are now nibbled across the country by people from all walks of life. The ants’ wings are removed before the minty critters are fried or dipped in chocolate.
In China, you may find yourself snacking on roasted bee larvae or fried silkworms. Other popular dishes include a winter-warming bowl of ant soup and boiled water bugs soaked in vinegar. Then there’s the national drink of China, Baijiu, which is a potent distilled alcohol that often comes with a preserved scorpion in the bottle. The more daring can try a snack of live scorpions doused in Baijiu.
Spring in Ghana can see certain food sources become scarce, and so when heavy rains force termites to emerge from their underground habitats, they are looked upon as a means of survival with health benefits that can be fried or ground into flour which is used for baking.
Although the Japanese have traditionally eaten insects for centuries, the custom has fallen out of favour, particularly in the cities. But several restaurants are reviving the practice bringing bugs back into the mainstream by serving up traditional insect dishes such as fried cicada, boiled wasp larvae and fried silk moth pupae.
Mexicans have eaten insects for centuries. Most famous is the agave worm that is dropped into bottles of mezcal – a liquor made from the heart of the cactus-like agave plant mainly made in the state of Oaxaca. Other bugs eaten in Mexico include crunchy fried grasshoppers known as chapulines, and ant eggs soaked in butter. For those with a sweet tooth, there are chocolate-covered locusts and sugar-coated worms.
In Thailand, the practice of eating insects originated in the northeast of the country where difficulties growing crops and rearing cattle meant the hungry locals had to find another source of food. When they moved to the big cities of Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket, they took their bug-eating ways with them and now deep-fried insects are commonly found in bars and at the stalls of street vendors, with a dish of deep-fried crickets known as Jing Leed among the most popular varieties.