Lo­custs boiled, baked or dried? Kuwait serves up a swarm

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - REGION - By Sal­ima Lebel

KUWAIT CITY: Some peo­ple like them baked, oth­ers pre­fer them dried. Lo­custs are sur­pris­ingly nu­tri­tious and con­sid­ered a del­i­cacy by many in Kuwait but not ev­ery­one is en­am­ored by the crunchy culi­nary of­fer­ing.

“I love their fla­vor, it’s one of my mem­o­ries of child­hood and re­minds me of my grand­par­ents and my fa­ther,” en­thused Moudi al-Mif­tah, a 64-year-old jour­nal­ist who writes a weekly news­pa­per col­umn. Mif­tah awaits win­ter ev­ery year to stock up on lo­custs, which she cooks her­self, with a pref­er­ence for crispi­ness.

In her kitchen, she tipped a bag of the in­sects into boil­ing stock where they quickly turned red, fill­ing her kitchen with an aroma sim­i­lar to stew­ing mut­ton.

Af­ter sim­mer­ing for half an hour, the lo­custs are ready to eat but they can be baked for added crunch, or dried so they can be en­joyed year­round. But most of her loved ones stopped eat­ing the bugs long ago.

Lo­cust con­sump­tion is dwin­dling across Kuwaiti so­ci­ety, par­tic­u­larly among the younger gen­er­a­tion, many of whom are dis­gusted by the prospect.

Ali Saad, a man in his 20s who was shop­ping for gro­ceries, was vis­i­bly re­pulsed by the idea of snack­ing on in­sects. “I’ve never thought of eat­ing lo­custs,” he said. “Why would I eat an in­sect when we have all kinds of red and white meats?”

‘THE FLESH IS VERY TASTY’

Lo­custs are con­sumed in many parts of the world and are a sta­ple of some cuisines. Ex­perts say they are an ex­cel­lent, en­ergy-ef­fi­cient source of pro­tein.

In Kuwait, they re­tain a sturdy fan base among older cit­i­zens.

The first ship­ments, im­ported from Saudi Ara­bia, ar­rive in mar­kets in Jan­uary, trans­ported in dis­tinc­tive red bags weigh­ing 250 grams.

They are stocked along­side white desert truf­fles, an­other del­i­cacy sought by Kuwaitis in win­ter at the Al-Rai mar­ket nes­tled in an in­dus­trial area in Kuwait City.

Abou Mo­ham­mad, 63, is orig­i­nally from Ah­vaz in Iran and nor­mally sells fish at the mar­ket.

But when the sea­son ar­rives, he be­comes a lo­cust and truf­fle sales­man. “The lo­custs are caught dur­ing the win­ter nights [when they are not fly­ing] and we im­port them from Saudi Ara­bia,” he said.

He de­scribed the bugs as “like a shrimp” and en­thused that “the flesh is very tasty – es­pe­cially the fe­males which are full of eggs.”

The larger fe­males are known as “Al-Mekn” in Kuwaiti di­alect, while the smaller males are called “As­four.” Abou Mo­ham­mad says he sells al­most a dozen bags a day at be­tween 3 and 5 Kuwaiti di­nars ($8 and $16) each. “I sell some 500 bags over the sea­son, which is from Jan­uary to April,” he said.

‘STOCK­PIL­ING FOR NEXT YEAR’

Mo­ham­mad al-Awadi, a 70year-old Kuwaiti, has de­liv­ered lo­custs to re­tail­ers for many years and keeps a handy sup­ply of the dried in­sects in his pocket for snack­ing. Dubbed “the king of the mar­ket,” the sales­man demon­strated how to eat the bug – snack­ing on a first lo­cust, then an­other, and an­other. “It’s the best of dishes. I’m full, so I don’t need to eat lunch to­day,” he said. “The drier they are the bet­ter. My fa­ther al­ways had a sup­ply in his pocket.”

Au­thor­i­ties have sought in vain to ban the con­sump­tion of lo­custs over fears they could be con­tam­i­nated.

Lo­custs can rapidly mul­ti­ply and form swarms that dam­age crops, forc­ing some coun­tries to tackle them with pes­ti­cides.

Adel Tar­iji put his stock of two black sacks be­side his ve­hi­cle and prospec­tive clients pulled up along­side to ex­am­ine his pro­duce and hag­gle over prices.

Tar­iji, who has sold lo­custs since he was 18, said that de­spite ret­i­cence from some, he had seen glim­mers of in­ter­est from health-con­scious younger buy­ers.

They are more will­ing to pay higher prices be­cause they are con­vinced of the ben­e­fits of eat­ing “all nat­u­ral” prod­ucts, he said.

“Some peo­ple are even stock­pil­ing for next year out of fear that there will be no lo­custs next sea­son.”

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