Globally, over 6 billion people (80% of the world’s population) consumes insects, and The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has registered roughly 1,900 edible insect species worldwide. Many scientists these days are speaking out about the benefits of insects as a more sustainable protein source than factory farming, and there are some convincing arguments supporting this. Although Escargot and chocolate covered ants seem to be the more common forms we’ve all heard of, what else is out there and where do you have to go to find such delicacies on the menu?
Exploring The Far East
The practice of eating insects is fairly common throughout Asia. For 3000 years it has been common practice in China, especially in the SouthWest Province of Yunnan. Many restaurants there have insects regularly on the menu, from Locusts to bees, to ants and termites. Further South, walking through the streets of Bangkok, Thailand you are likely to come upon carts offering 5-10 different varieties of insects. Grasshoppers and crickets are the most common bug-fare you’re likely to find in any country, and that stands true of Thailand as well. Alongside giant water bugs and a variety of worms, they’re sometimes prepared in your dish, yet you are more likely to find them fried and seasoned as a crispy on-the-go snack.
From Sea To Shining Sea
Entomophagy (the practice of eating insects) is common throughout South America. In Venezuela, the Ye'kuana people eat earthworms they've gutted and boiled, or smoked like meat, which can be a high ticket item depending on where you get them. Whereas in Peru you may try some fried and salted ants, or snack on crispy fried crickets in Brazil. Yet the bold traveler will less likely come upon such dietary curiosities in North America. Yet, it’s not difficult to find on the menu in North America’s Largest city.
Mexico City by far has some of the most delectable insect-fare out there. A common staple of the Aztecs, these divine dishes aren’t going anywhere. One specialty is escamoles, the eggs or larva of a large species of ant indigenous to the region. Often soaked in mezcal and lime, they have a nutty flavour and the texture of cottage cheese. They are light, fluffy and pack a flavorful punch. Yet more commonly you’re bound to come upon the crispy street snack of chapulines, deep fried and seasoned crickets, which are high in protein, low in fat, and super delicious. Stop and grab a beer somewhere and it’s often the gratis snack they serve you with your drink. Though most commonly found in Mexico City, these foods are celebrated countrywide. So whether you are in Mexico City and decide to take the bus out to Oaxaca or you’re on a cruise stopping off at Cozumel, place an order of chapulines with your drink and you’re sure to be pleasantly surprised.
Though not as common in the US and Canada, such fare is growing in popularity in New York City. There are several spots in the borough of Brooklyn that offer insect fare, though not surprisingly many of those are Mexican food restaurants.
Closer To Home
Australia shares one insect delicacy with Mexico, as being one of the few places in the world where one tasty critter has made its home. The honey-pot ant. Aboriginal’s of Australia have been eating the honey-pot ant for centuries. These worker ants carry an excess of food in their abdomen which swells up to the size of a grape and has a sweet and sour nectar taste to them. Served at some of the most celebrated restaurants in the world, their popularity has recently boomed. And let’s not forget the witchetty grub. You can eat these buttery almond yummies raw or cooked in coals where their skin becomes crispy like roast chicken and their insides yellow like the yoke of an egg.
Many insects are packed with all the essential amino acids, are less likely to carry zoonotic diseases, and reported by the FAO as the key to worldwide food security. Sustainable, and good for you. Yet, if you are looking forward to trotting the globe and seeking out culinary adventure, you now have a few good places to start.
Written by Kylee Andrews