Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"They Actually Eat That:" Giant Water Bugs.

To be honest, I had to flip a coin between this insect entry and Farfetch'd. Eating duck is uncommon wherever one goes, but Farfetch'd has a fairly interesting story behind it. Similarly, eating bugs is always a huge gross-out factor in the West, even if it is common elsewhere.

This is more interesting than it looks, I swear.

Yeah, guess which one the coin picked?

They Actually Eat That?!

On some level, everybody eats bugs. You can make you food clean as lutefisk if you like, but if you value your taste buds, you have eaten something that a bug made. It could be a dye. It could be droppings on your organic corn. It could even be in a lollipop or chocolate. No, those are not Fear Factor foods.

Insects are a source of protein and vitamins. for many people around the world. This is not the last that you will hear of them; although insects are often taboo in Western culture (bar one exception that will get its own entry), "mini-livestock" is getting more and more popular. It is more eco-friendly and economical than farming large mammals, not to mention more nutritious.

It's still better for you than McDonald's.

In Thailand, bugs are not just snack food - they are cuisine. They eat all sorts of bugs, including ant eggs, bee larvae and grasshoppers. They are usually sold on the street, fried with a chili, lime leaf and garlic blend that make them not only nutritious, but delicious. Bugs taste rather bland on their own (I'd know), so these spices are probably necessary to give them any taste whatsoever.

Except for one.

The giant water bug Lethocerus indicus, AKA ca cuong in Vietnamese and malaeng da na in Thai, is known to be especially tasty even without seasonings. Like many bugs, these are fried and sold along the streets of Bangkok. Its taste has been described as anywhere from resembling seafood to gorgonzola cheese. In this case, a taste is a taste.

The pheromone that the male of this species uses to attract mates is also valuable as a spice of its own. It is often simply called 'essence' for obvious reasons. Most versions of this spice on the market are imitations. You know, like colognes.

On the bright side, these things look a fair bit like cockroaches. Consider eating them sweet revenge if you ever find yourself in Thailand or Vietnam. They also sting like a bitch, so people better have a darn good reason for stuffing them in their faces.

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