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 eight restaurants that are making insects taste delicious, they’ll change their minds.
People all around the world eat insects for a whole host of reasons, and people all around the world don’t eat bugs for just as many reasons. So why would anyone consider eating something we’re more used to swatting and cursing off?
For one, they’re a great protein source. Insects tend to have more protein, and less fat and calories, than just about any other meat on Earth. 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, the 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 cockroach to eating a lobster, we can’t help but realize 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. It won’t be nearly as gross as you think. To help you cross that hurdle, we’ve assembled a list of eight restaurants around the country that are serving insect dishes that are undeniably tasty.
1. Typhoon, Santa Monica, Calif.
Located in the Santa Monica Airport, the pan-Asian Typhoon has a whole section of its menu devoted to insects. Singapore-style scorpions with shrimp toast; stir-fried Taiwanese crickets with garlic, chile pepper, and Asian basil; stir-fried silk worm pupae with assorted dipping sauces; and Manchurian Chambai ants on a hill of string potatoes are all for sale. Paging Andrew Zimmern!
2. Toloache, New York City
Chef Julian Medina is on a quest to bring chapulines, or crunchy fried grasshoppers, to the masses (he even served them atop oysters at this year’s New York City Wine & Food Festival), and at his flagship restaurant, Toloache, you can order a plate of tacos filled with the Oaxacan-style dried grasshoppers, onions, and jalapeños for $15.
3. Sticky Rice Thai, Chicago
At this inconspicuous Northern Thai restaurant in Chicago’s North Center, you’ll find your normal selection of Thai dishes as well as a few more off-the-beaten-path ones that include intestines and pig’s blood, for example. You’ll also find fried bamboo caterpillars and Khai Jiaw Khai Mod, an omelette made with ant eggs.
4. Sushi Mazi, Portland, Ore.
Most of the time, when you see a creatively named sushi roll, like Red Spider Roll or Green Dragon Roll, it’s pretty clear that they don’t contain real spiders and dragons. But at the popular Sushi Mazi in Portland, their "real grasshopper sushi" contains just that: rice with a grasshopper on top. "You must have before you die!" the menu implores.
Check out the full list of restaurants with bugs on the menu.
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