Will you be eating insects instead?

Qin Xie
12 March 2013
Will you be eating insects instead?

They say that on average we eat around one pound, or just over 450g, of insects a year.

Okay, there's been claims made for anything between one and five pounds, but who's counting? Either way, it seems like an awful lot of creepy crawlies to be ingesting for something that's not considered food in the Western world.

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The reality of course is that insects have been on the menu for a long time. Grubs and grasshoppers are often considered delicacies in South East Asia while the world's best restaurant, Noma, boasts live ants on its menu.

That dish made it to London during Noma's pop up at Claridge's last year. Even big department stores like Selfridges have been stocking insect-laden sweets for years; particularly eye catching have been the scorpion lollipops.

Unsurprisingly, eating insects has been the subject of much debate over the years with the likes of the Wall Street Journal, The Economist's More Intelligent Life and most recently The Guardian weighing in. The argument is that, with its high protein and low fat content and the fact that it can be cheaply produced, it's economical, sustainable and even healthier to eat insects.

The latest to join the insect trend is celebrity chef and MasterChef 2005 winner Thomasina Miers' chain of Mexican restaurants, Wahaca.

The chain is introducing chapulines fundido, a Mexican speciality, to its London Southbank branch for a month and asking customers to vote on Twitter #ChapuliYES or #ChapuliNO. The dish, priced at £3.95, is made from puréed, deep fried grasshoppers mixed with shallots, garlic and chipotle chillies and topped with grilled cheese.

Having turned down an opportunity to try insects in Thailand in the past and subsequently regretted it, I have always been curious. The thought does simultaneously fill me with horror and intrigue though. What will it taste like? How will it feel?

I was in two minds about trying the dish but finally plucked up the courage.

The dish came topped with three fried grasshoppers and a sprinkling of coriander - evidently in the cooking process they had lost their legs so are actually a lot smaller than I thought they would be.

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On its own, the crispy grasshopper (a bit like a dry fried chilli filled with hummus in texture) tasted slightly sour with an indescribable "other flavour". Inside the chapulines fundido however, it was more like mushroom duxelle.

Dan, our waiter, said that they sold around 20 portions on their first day and everyone had a different opinion on what it tasted like. The feedback has been anything between lemony and earthy.

I could have done without the grasshopper topping I think but the dish itself was actually not bad at all. That said, knowing what's in it, I'm not sure I'd be in a hurry to rush back for more either.

The question is, with the benefits of eating insects in mind, will you be jumping on board?

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