Am­bas­sadors of en­to­mophagy

XBug-eat­ing, while cringy to many for­eign­ers, isn’t as bad as most be­lieve

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By Qi Xi­jia

ong-term ex­pats liv­ing in Shang­hai do their best to in­te­grate with Chi­nese so­ci­ety and its cus­tom, but how far are some for­eign­ers will­ing to go to prove them­selves? The Global Times re­cently put a group of for­eign­ers to the test by spon­sor­ing the first-ever Global Times In­sect Eat­ing Challenge. Out of dozens we ap­proached, we found only two tak­ers, whom we es­corted to a Yun­nan cui­sine restau­rant fa­mous for cook­ing up tasty arthro­pods. The re­sults were ex­pect­edly hi­lar­i­ous.

Nei­ther of our brave vol­un­teers, Rachel Turner from the UK and Nash Tim from Canada, had ex­pe­ri­ence eat­ing in­sects prior to our in­vi­ta­tion to crunch into some de­lec­ta­ble ecdyso­zoa ex­oskele­tons.

Tim first heard about China’s love of eat­ing hexa­pod in­ver­te­brates af­ter read­ing Jour­ney to

the West, the clas­sic Chi­nese novel wherein the lead pro­tag­o­nist, a hu­manoid mon­key, reg­u­larly con­sumes worms for his meals.

Since ar­riv­ing in Shang­hai, Tim has sought out a restau­rant to par­take in eat­ing all man­ner of an­nelids. “I heard that eat­ing in­sect will make your skin smooth and glossy, so I want to give it a try,” said Tim.

Turner, on the other hand, en­tered into the challenge with un­der­stand­able trep­i­da­tion. “When my par­ents see me eat­ing in­sects, they will treat me dif­fer­ently for the rest of my life. I ex­pect phone calls from them say­ing ‘Rachel we didn’t raise you this way!’” laughed Turner.

The first dish we pre­sented to the two for­eign­ers – fried fat bee pupa – re­sem­bled a plate of or­di­nary peanuts. The duo picked a pupa up skill­fully with their chop­sticks, of­fered each other a “cheers,” then bit in. “Tastes like meat, like pi­geon,” re­marked Tim. Turner agreed.

The sec­ond dish – crispy bam­boo worms – may ap­pear off-putting due to all the tiny legs and head, but our testers were pleas­antly sur­prised. “Just like dough sticks; oily with noth­ing in­side,” said Tim.

“It’s hol­low, only worm skin,” said Turner af­ter her first bite. “I would eat this in the cinema, it’s prob­a­bly health­ier than pop­corn. Now I’m in­ter­ested how many calories worms have.”

The third dish – fried grasshopper – was per­haps the big­gest challenge for Turner and Tim. Af­ter all, grasshop­pers are a beloved play­thing of chil­dren around the world. Af­ter some hes­i­ta­tion, they both popped a hop­per into their mouths.

“I’m eat­ing Jiminy Cricket,” laughed Turner as she bit down. “It’s really dis­ap­point­ing, ac­tu­ally. It tastes like burnt food,” she even­tu­ally de­cided.

“I would give it 9 points out of 10,” Tim said as he tore apart a grasshopper, sa­vor­ing each small sec­tion – first the tho­rax and ab­domen and sav­ing the head for last.

Sus­tain­able so­lu­tions

China has a scrump­tious his­tory of eat­ing

in­sects,gi­gas Guang­dong mil­li­ as long Prov­ince in South China is mostas an n archispiros-trep­tus fa­mous for bug-in­gest­ing where ev­ery­thing from lo­cust to ci­cada larva to silk­worm chrysalis are sta­ples of lo­cal lunch

In re­cent years, con­sum­ing in­sects has gained pop­u­lar­ity amongg the Chi­nese mid­dle classes for its health ben­e­fits, as most bugs are high in pro­tein and low iin fat.

Many ex­perts also ex­tool the ben­e­fits of en­to­mophagy (hu­mans din­ing on in­sects), as bugs are a more sus­tain­able al­ter­na­tive to cow or

chicken meats, which tend to harm the en­vi­ron­ment and are con­tam­i­nated with tox­ins and medicines.

The UN Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion even an­nounced, in their re­search re­port Edi­ble In­sects: Fu­ture Prospects for Food and Feed

Se­cu­rity, that din­ing on in­sects could pro­tect lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment while help­ing solve the global food cri­sis.

Mean­while China still has a long way to go be­fore droves of for­eign tourists start opt­ing for spicy spi­der in­stead of Pek­ing duck or caramelized cock­roach over dumplings. But if our two am­bas­sadors of en­to­mophagy are any ex­am­ple, it will even­tu­ally hap­pen.


Turner even­tu­ally chose bam­boo worms as her fa­vorite, for their “soft and crunchy” tex­ture. Tim pre­ferred bee pupa, be­cause “it is sim­ply big­ger.”

Tim, whose work in China takes him to many prov­inces and in­tro­duces him to a va­ri­ety of lo­cal cuisines, sees eat­ing Chi­nese food as more of a so­cial challenge than a leisurely ac­tiv­ity. He said he’d be us­ing his new bug-eat­ing cre­den­tials to im­press his Chi­nese col­leagues.

Prior to at­tend­ing our challenge, Tim spent sev­eral hours re­search­ing the nu­tri­tional benefit of in­sects, not­ing that 36 African coun­tries are en­to­mophagous along with 23 in Amer­ica, 29 in Asia and 11 in Europe.

“At first it looks dis­gust­ing, but I found that the more I look at in­sects as food, the more my brain tells me it’s awe­some,” said Tim.

“I knew it was a thing that is eaten here,” Turner said about bugs. “It wasn’t as bad as ev­ery­one was say­ing.” She added that her fel­low for­eign­ers in China should be more open-minded about adapt­ing to lo­cal cus­tom.

“I can un­der­stand why ex­pats would be put off (about eat­ing in­sects). But I think when­ever some­one goes to a for­eign coun­try, they should al­ways challenge if not change them­selves,” said Turner. Tim con­curred.

“I think ex­pats are stereo­typ­i­cal when it comes to Chi­nese food; they think it’s dirty, un­hy­gienic and dis­gust­ing. I would say most Chi­nese food has ex­isted for more than cen­turies and is the health­i­est cui­sine in the world com­pared to the Western cuisines,” said Tim.

Photo: Yang Hui/GT

Nash Tim from Canada pre­pares to taste a plate of in­sects.

(From far left) Pho­tos: Yang Hui/GT and CFP

Nash Tim and Rachel Turner try out dif­fer­ent in­sect dishes.

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