Con­sid­ered an ex­cel­lent, en­ergy-ef­fi­cient source of pro­tein, lo­custs have a steady fan base among older cit­i­zens in Kuwait

Muscat Daily - - FEATURES -

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 en­am­oured by the crunchy culi­nary of­fer­ing.

"I love their flavour, 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.

Moudi 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 year-round.

But most of Moudi's 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 twen­ties 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, en­er­gy­ef­fi­cient 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 250g.

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 the north­west of Kuwait City.

Abou Mo­hammed, 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 "el-Mekn" in Kuwaiti di­alect, while the smaller males are called "As­four".

Abou Mo­hammed says he sells al­most a dozen bags a day at be­tween three and five Kuwaiti di­nars (US$8 and US$16) each. "I sell some 500 bags over the sea­son, which is from Jan­uary to April," he said.

‘Stock­pil­ing for next year’

Mo­hammed al Awadi, a 70 year 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 health­con­scious 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."

The lo­custs are caught dur­ing the win­ter nights when they are not flying and we im­port them from Saudi Ara­bia Abou Mo­hammed

A lo­cust ven­dor shows a bag full of ed­i­ble in­sects at a mar­ket in Al Rai, north­west of Kuwait City on Jan­uary 25, 2020 Moudi al Mif­tah, a 64 year old jour­nal­ist, cooks lo­cust at her home in Al Ah­madi, some 35km south of Kuwait City

(AFP pho­tos)

A sur­pris­ingly nu­tri­tious ed­i­ble in­sect, lo­custs are a del­i­cacy for some in Kuwait, while oth­ers are re­pulsed by the crunchy culi­nary of­fer­ing

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