The practice of eating creepy crawly things is often left to survivalists, frat initiations, wagers, and some daring Asian cultures.With a focus on finding new sources of eco-friendly protein, the art (if you can call it that) of capturing, preparing, and dining on gnats, rats, bats, and all manner of insects and reptiles has moved into the spotlight.
Getting past the initial ickiness of eating the thing that was buzzing around your house, hopping in your backyard, or slithering underneath your garage door is about half the battle. Disguising the taste and texture of these creatures with the proper recipes will move you one step closer to earning your Andrew Zimmern merit badge.
If you are feeling culinarily adventurous, or were just the kind of kid who would put anything in his or her mouth, here are some savory recipes to help you become a true food futurist.
1) Grasshopper Parmesan
My favorite part of this recipe is when the presenter says, “When they turn red, they are done.”
A complex sort of exercise, cooking grasshoppers involves a few steps prior to rolling them in milk, bread crumbs, and parmesan cheese. After capture, these omnivores are put in the fridge for human killing, after which its back wings are plucked off since they are inedible.
Fried grasshoppers can be prepared ahead of time and heated up as your guests arrive for cocktail hour.
2) Cicada Kabobs
These critters are, as our barbecuing chef warns, best not eaten raw. That is, unless you like having an allergic reaction that requires a quick trip to the ER or have an EpiPen on hand. Placed on skewers with some pineapple and coated with olive oil and garlic, these morsel require only a few minutes on each side over hot coals before they are ready for eating.
The kicker here is when our daring diner calls them “lobsters of the soil.” Kind of makes the mouth water. Pass the melted butter.
3) Worm Stew
Like many others, I am a huge fan of Vietnamese cuisine, from pho to vermicelli bun dishes. To date, I have yet to see any concoctions on the menu at an American(ized) restaurant serving Vietnamese fare (a mix of French and Chinese cuisine) that includes worms.
This preparation is for a Thanksgiving celebration in Hanoi and includes a number of indigenous ingredients such as ginger, garlic, and lemongrass, added after the worms have turned gooey. After being deep-fried, the worms are eaten in lettuce leaves to keep the savory goodness from leaking.
4) Sautéed June Bugs
“It’s a little creepy, because at first they want to crawl away,” says Daniel Vitalis, as he prepares to add his freshly caught June bugs (a.k.a. May beetles) to a layer of sautéed shallots. “Just like shellfish, you want to make sure they are fresh, alive, and wriggling.”
It’s a simple preparation using ghee, shallots, and a handful of live bugs, which you hold down with your spatula to ensure they don’t crawl out of the pan. A few minutes of cooking, and you’re ready to grab the chopsticks and munch away.
5) Barbecued Rats
The ultimate recipe that “tastes like chicken,” but at a third of the price of poultry.
Here, we learn the entire process for capturing rats. (Remember, those from the rice paddies are sumptuous while those from the city are gross.) If you are looking to save a few pennies, you can skin them alive yourself, or go to your local market (that is, if you live in or are visiting Cambodia), and buy them recipe-ready.
As with other white-ish meats, it appears rats can be basted and simply cooked over some hot coals until they reach your desired degree of doneness.
From what I hear, a bottle of 2010 Fontana Candida Frascati goes well with rodent.
Photo via matsuyuki/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)