My sister, Rosie, and I decided to enjoy a night out that boasted of protein-rich, calorie-low ingredients; we were at Grub, eating a seven course tasting menu made from crickets, grasshoppers and buffalo worms.
“What are these?”
“Oh. It has really fat thighs.”
A second later, my sister hungrily scooped up a mouthful of fried crickets.
“They’re delicious,” she said, a leg poking out the side of her mouth.
Rosie and I were at Grub, a pop-up with a difference. Unlike The Deliciousness of Insects, held by the Nordic Food Lab in 2013, Grub is less about fancy food with insects and more of a practical take on them – everything we ate could be made at home.
Founded by Shami Radia and Neil Whippey, entomophagy, or bug-eating is currently a common and accepted part of everyday’s diet. “Whilst working for Water Aid, I got to visit some great countries including Malawi where I first ate insects,” said Shami, “I also later discovered that in many countries, such as Cambodia, during breaks at school, the kids would often visit their homemade cricket traps set up with a UV light and binbags, collect the crickets and fry them up as a delicious snack.’
Once you’ve tried the Soy Crickets cooked up in Pandan leaves on Grub’s menu, you’ll soon be thinking of where your next cricket-fix will come from.
With a top Thai chef on board, the flavours are exotic and tongue-tinglingly zingy, in a way that made me wish I was decked out in Havaianas and traveller trousers with a backpack slung nearby. After the crickets came Chang beer-battered grasshoppers. These were a lot larger than the crickets and in some instances, their large beady eyes had poked their way through the tempura, making them look like some rather cute, bundled up alien. They tasted great, especially with the sweet chilli sauce.
More dishes followed; sticky crickets in a rich, aniseedy sauce, insect miang (the palate cleanser) served in a cosy ‘chair’ made from betal leaves which certainly woke up the tastebuds, a rich spicy rice cake salad teeming with buffalo worms and a crispy, citrusy noodle salad that was light and delicate.
To finish, we chewed on caramel chimp sticks – perhaps these will be the next cake pop trend? Almost savoury, they were nutty and sticky and utterly delicious.
So why aren’t more people eating insects?
It’s strange – if you were to eat these dishes blindfolded, I guarantee you’d munch your way through it, licking your lips as you went. Therefore, it’s not the taste that seems to be the barrier, but the looks. There’s few animals we eat whole; I can think of whitebait, soft-shelled crab, prawns and that’s about it. They have eyes and legs, same as insects. And half the time, the insects are better for you. And tastier.
Grub: Good, in Every Way
It’s true, when faced with the facts, you can’t deny that eating insects is a good thing- both for you and the environment:
People are eating insects already – it’s only the Western world that thinks this is weird. In fact, 80% of the world’s nations eat insects as part of their diet.
Insects are sustainable – Over 1,900 insects have been identified as human food so there’s no shortage of choice. They also take up less space to farm, require less to feed and emit fewer greenhouse gases.
Insects are full of nutrients – no excuses if you’re on the paleo diet – crickets are high in protein, have more iron than beef gram for gram and as much calcium as milk.
For the vegetarians amongst us, it’s also thought that insects don’t feel pain like chickens, pigs and similar animals and the freeze-drying process slows their system so that they eventually stop moving and die.
Whatever your take, it’s hard to have an opinion until you try it for yourself. So go on, Eat Grub.