Insects are one of the most divisive protein sources on Earth. You’ll meet people who have no problem eating a raw cobra heart who still wouldn’t touch a fried grasshopper with a 10-foot pole.
But maybe after a visit to one of these restaurants that are making insects taste delicious, they’ll change their minds.
People all around the world eat insects (a practice called entomophagy) for a whole host of reasons, while people all around the world don’t eat bugs for just as many reasons.
So why would anyone consider eating a pest that we’re more used to swatting away from us? For one, they’re simply a great and sustainable food source. Insects are full of protein; grasshoppers contain about as much protein as chicken or beef, but with less fat and more calcium. Second, they’re really easy to farm, because they’re small and have no problems reproducing exponentially. Third, when prepared properly, they can actually taste pretty good.
Now, there’s a big difference between grabbing a grub from under a rock and slurping it down (slimy, yet satisfying!) and going to a fine restaurant and sampling fresh guacamole with crunchy fried chapulines on top. It’s a mind-over-matter issue: If you don’t think about it, those little fried grasshoppers are crunchy, nutty, and as good as any bar snack.
But, especially in America, we’ve got some hang-ups about eating insects. Why waste your stomach space on a creepy-crawly when you can get your protein from a dry-aged porterhouse? Another viable concern is that insects don’t really have any meat.
When insect-eaters compare eating a beetle to eating a lobster, we can’t help but remind them that cockroaches don’t have tails and claws filled with light, delicious meat. If you eat an insect, all you’re getting is an exoskeleton and internal organs, which really doesn't sound so great.
But when you eat an insect, you need to look beyond that, to see the bigger picture. They’re one of the most sustainable protein sources on Earth and could quite possibly be the protein of the future, so you might as well buck up and try one (more and more people – and entrepreneurs – are getting in the game every day). It won’t be nearly as gross as you think.
1. Black Ant, New York City
his trendy East Village Mexican restaurant isn’t as insect-centric as its name might imply, but there are plenty of opportunities on the menu to satisfy your bug tooth. Start your evening with a cocktail rimmed with ant salt and an order of black ant guacamole and tlayuda con chapulines (a crunchy tortilla topped with sautéed grasshoppers, cheese, and fresh salsa), and finish with pollo de plaza (black ant guajillo jerk roasted chicken).
2. Dan Sung Sa, Oakland, California
This ode to Korean street food is one of the most raucous restaurants in Oakland. It’s most popular for its Korean fried chicken wings, but deep in the menu lurks a slightly more exotic item: chrysalis soup, a spicy broth with about 100 crunchy fried little silkworm pupae. We can’t even begin to imagine what this must taste like.
3. Grub Kitchen, Pembrokeshire, UK
Hailed as “Britain’s first insect restaurant” when it first opened with much fanfare earlier this year, Grub Kitchen features insects in just about every dish, and isn’t for the squeamish. Popular dishes include sweetcorn chowder with basil oil and grasshopper crumb, black ant and olive crusted goat cheese, smoked chipotle cricket and black bean chili, and caramelized apple crumble with a toasted bug and shortbread topping.
4. Mok Maru Jong Sul Jip, Los Angeles
One of Koreatown’s most popular sports bars, this one also serves up a spicy silkworm cocoon soup. Must be a popular drinking food in Korea.
5. Petty Cash Taqueria, Los Angeles
Chapulines make an appearance as an off-menu item at this popular Los Angeles taqueria in a taco that actually sounds pretty delicious: A handmade corn tortilla is topped with melted Jack cheese, a minty Oaxacan herb called hoja santa, a butterflied Santa Barbara spot prawn, avocado, and whole chapulines.
Check out more restaurants around the country serving up gourmet grubs and beautiful bugs.
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