Ambassadors of entomophagy
XBug-eating, while cringy to many foreigners, isn’t as bad as most believe
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.
China has a scrumptious history of eating
insects,gigas Guangdong millipede.one 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.
Nash Tim from Canada prepares to taste a plate of insects.
Nash Tim and Rachel Turner try out different insect dishes.