Feel like munching on a giant waterbug? How about nibbling
a juicy grub or a crispy grasshopper fried up with zesty spices?
Hey, don't knock it until
you try it, says Bill White, an Agricultural Research Service
After a meeting earlier
this year in the Thai city of Khon Kaen, Dr. White had a chance to sample some
of these multi-legged snacks for lunch and at a banquet
Science For Kids decided to get the scoop on this matter, and spoke with
Dr. White by telephone at his office in Houma, Louisiana. There, Dr. White
normally only studies insects, seeking ways to stop those with a destructive
sweet-tooth for sugarcane crops. These pests include the larval offspring of
this moth, an adult sugarcane borer.
while in Thailand this past winter, he was introduced to
an important staple food of the Thai people in that region: mealworms,
grasshoppers, longicorn larvae, waterbugs and even
scorpions--all roasted, fried, or spiced to
taste (click above for map and scorpion photo).
"We ate a lot of
insects," Dr. White recalls of that day. Most of the visiting entomologists in
his group weren't native Thai, he says. But that sure didn't stop them from
sampling various dishes of rice topped with a seasoned insect of
"Some members in
our group were nibblers," he says of the more cautious. Others had a heartier
appetite, particularly an entomologist from France, where food preparation is
practically considered art.
Yeah, but what's it
like to chomp down on a mealworm?
Crispy, according to Dr.
White: "The mealyworms were roasted."
OK. How about those
longicorn larvae (pictured here)? --Taste like chicken?
Nope. "They had a pecan
flavor," he responds.
How do you eat a
cooked, giant waterbug, and how big are these anyway?
"They're about three
inches long, and can be eaten like an oyster," Dr. White says. "You have to
pull the back legs off," he adds.
Well, some people might say the same of cracking open a steamed
crab, prying apart a lobster tail, peeling shrimp, or sucking juices from a
boiled crawfish head, for that matter.
It's all a matter of
perspective. Of the insects he sampled, Dr. White said he only "had a
problem' with the bigger, gooey ones, the bigger larvae."
Believe it or
not, eating insects was one of the highlights of Dr. White's trip to
"As entomologists, our
entomological prowess was challenged. In a way, it was a rite of passage," he
jokes. "We were also amazed at the ready supply of insects and other unusual
things--by Western standards-- available to eat in their markets."
Most important, he
says, was the chance to experience another country's culture, and come away
with a greater appreciation for it and the people.
Jan Suszkiw, Agricultural Research Service,
you still haven't had your fill of insects, and want to learn more, do
you? We can fill that order. The University of Kentucky's Department
of Entomology has kindly allowed us to link to their site on insects as food,
which should prove quite informative and maybe--dare we say?--tempting? Click here for page 1, and
here for page 2.
Would you like to learn more about Thailand? Here's
one place to start: the Tourism Authority of Thailand (note: this takes time
to load). Want just the facts? Then you might want to check out
this site, from the World Factbook.
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