Eating Insects Is Actually Quite Normal
"Eww!! Who eats insects? Only the poor and the uneducated people do!!"
This thought must've crossed your mind whenever you think about eating insects. Delicacies in our culture involve fine-dining of high-end, classy food. We deem insects to be the lowest life form. Many of us believe that because our culture and society shaped us too. But to many other cultures far away, insects are very normal and they are just regular food people eat, nothing disgusting about that.
Various types of insects provide nutrition for your body. Rich in protein and energy-filled, the small number of insects can provide you with more energy than a burger. Most common in Africa and Asia, insects are a delicacy in many countries in those regions. They have a long tradition of eating insects and you may be surprised that eating insects may not be cheap at all. It's not "poor people food".
Countries That Eat Insects And Each Of Their Signature Dishes!
1. Fried crickets - Thailand
Eating insects isn't unheard of in South East Asia. In fact, that's pretty much what the area is known for, besides beach parties and more beach parties. Locals enjoy eating crickets as a snack in the afternoon or after dinner. A treat in between meals. It's not too filling. It just gives you enough energy to go on without having to stuff yourself up with a full meal. Or just for those that crave a snack.
Serving crickets can be very different, depending on your preferences, from deep-fried to serving them raw. Lots of locals like fried crickets as they are cheap and provide a good amount of protein for the body. Some others like them raw for the original taste. Regardless of how you prefer your crickets, Thailand will surely find a way for you!
2. Queen ants - Brazil
Queen ants, traditionally consumed by poor families in Brasil, are not a hot pick for snacks among places in Southern Brazil. Together with an ample amount of herbs, queen ants are fried. In the past, eating queen ants was associated with your social status as mostly poor people that couldn't afford regular food would have it. But today, people consume queen ants just for the minty taste as they describe it.
Once fried, the crispy shell with the chewy inside are just the best snack on a hot sunny day. The small size of the ants also makes it not as noticeable when chewing. You taste more of the herbs than the creature itself. Queen ants are always easily available everywhere in the world so mostly people consume it in the Southern part of the country.
3. Zazamushi - Japan
Zazamushi, a type of larvae of caddisfly and stonefly insects is a popular Japanese snack in some regions. It may sound and look less appealing than other insects, as it's actual worms, zazamushi is healthy and tasty, according to the Japanese. Usually seasoned with soy sauce and some other herbs, zazamushi can be deep-fried or pan-fried. Eating zazamushi is very chill, you can just eat it like that or you can dip it in sauces you like. Even have it with wasabi if you want.
This commonly-found street food also divided Japanese. Those that love it can't live 3 days without it. Those that don't like it, just like the rest of the world, find it disgusting to have worms. Regardless of how you feel about worms, one thing is true, zazamushi gives you a lot of protein. Worms are rich in protein, we all know that from science class. So, eating is just a healthy choice.
4. Mezcal - Mexico
There are insects that you can eat, better yet, there are insects that you can drink. Mezcal is a traditional Mexican alcoholic drink that is often mistaken for tequila. Long story short, tequila is a type, not mezcal, so a tequila can be a mezcal but a mezcal may not be a tequila.
So what's the story with the worm and the liquor? Your shot of mezcal usually comes with a worm floating at the bottom of the shot glass. Some people say the worm brings out the flavour of the drink and enhances the experience. While some believe it symbolises good luck. Whatever reason it may be that first started the worm-in-the-drink tradition, it has surely become its most successful marketing icon. Now you just have to drink mezcal with a worm in it. That's what it's famous for now.
5. Termite - Ghana
This time, eating insects is really saving the world of starvation in Ghana. Located in West Africa, Ghana suffers a lot from its low economic status that its people are always finding new food sources to sustain themselves. As it turns out, they found a rather good way to feed themselves while not destructing the food system. They started eating termites, those little sneaky insects that you'd hate to find in your house. They eat the pillars of your house until your house falls down.
Eating termites became so popular that now it's even on restaurant menus in many places in Ghana. Termites are rich in protein so they can fill you up in just a small amount. The best thing is, termites are easily found in Ghana (not so good if your house is infested with them...). Eating termites seem to have a positive effect on society. The people are getting rid of the annoying insects while filling themselves up. Whether this could be the long term approach to fight starvation is yet to be seen, but at the moment, this is a popular solution for the people.
6. Grasshopper - Uganda
"A god-given delicacy". Ugandan people's love for grasshopper is unmatched. Same as Ghana, the people in Uganda struggle to find a sustainable food source as they aren't economically-stable. Some parts of the regions are infested with grasshoppers. Instead of coming up with new ways to get them out, they eat them. Now farmers are excited when they grasshopper season comes. They know it means solid food supply for a while.
Typical ways of cooking grasshoppers include boiling them and frying them. Farmers might prefer boiling them as they believe it's healthier and the natural protein stays better that way. In fact, in Uganda, grasshoppers are so popular that many people are joining the industry to become a grasshopper farmer. The competition is high.
7. Scorpion - China
We can't leave China off the list! China is probably the most well-known country for its taste for insects. In China, you can find people eating all kinds of insects. Scorpions are considered one of the best insect street food in China. Usually put on a stick and fried, the scorpions are crispy. Venders season them different so the flavors and taste vary greatly depending on the region you have them in.
Scorpions are affordable for a lot of rural area farmers. They are crispy so great to chew at. Many tourists have expressed their doubt for eating something as vicious as a scorpion but the Chinese proved that even the most aggressive insect can be a delicacy!
Although with the on-going conronavirus in China, people are consuming less insects out of safety concerns. Whether China will continue its insect food culture may be an unknown with the epidemic, it still made many unforgettable memories for lots of tourists. Out of safety concerns, it is advised that you don't eat at any unregistered, unhygienic places, food stalls in China. Eating insects in China may not be the best idea right now. So if you're in China or planning to go, you may want to skip this one this time.
Isn't it educational to know that in many countries, insects are as common as burgers? They are not disgusting or abominable. They are just regular everyday food for most! We live in a culturally diverse society. It is not hard to find people from different backgrounds. Maybe your parents are from one of these countries or maybe your friend came from there. Being a global citizen means we have to understand things don't always work the same everywhere as they would back home. We just have to understand them.
Are you keen to try out these insects when you travel? You don't have to if you aren't ready. But it's always good to know what delicacies are in a country. Food shapes the culture a lot. If you are adventurous enough, do try out all these delicacies when you go traveling abroad and share with your friends back home how you feel about them!!