What do insects taste like?
Asking what do insects taste like is akin to asking what vegetables taste like; there are so many and they’re all different. It really depends on the insect species and life stage. There are thousands of edible insects and even the same insect can taste different at different life stages. You can eat insect eggs, pupae, larvae and adults and their flavour and nutritional composition varies. Ants are probably the most strongly flavoured due to the presence of formic acid – that familiar dead-ant smell you get when you squash them gives a zingy sensation on the tongue. Crickets when dry roasted are more textural than flavoursome, giving a soft crunch and an experience a bit like chewing peanut skins. They also have an earthiness that comes through when cricket powder is used as an ingredient in baked foods. They take on flavours like garlic, herbs and spices easily and flavoured crickets are an intensely savoury sensation with some crunch that is well suited to a snack-in-your-hand, dare I say with a beer! Mealworms have a little more fat and this gives them a more nutty taste and texture. The deep-fried moth pupae we tried in Bangkok (a typical place Westerners have tried insects) was sprayed with vinegar and again offered a very savoury sensation akin to salt and vinegar chips. If you’ve tried others, please let us know what you thought.
How do you eat them?
Insects are very versatile and in traditional insect eating cultures they have been enjoyed in casseroles, soups, stir fries, omelettes, salads, pies, cakes, rice dishes, desserts and drinks Roasted flavoured crickets and roasted mealworms are good for snacking just as they are. Cricket powder is a versatile ingredient you can add to smoothies and baking. Ants are great to use in small quantities as a colour and flavour ‘pop’, as many high-end chefs have done. You can also buy tea with ants. Insect products also include snack bars and confectionery. In overseas markets there are loads more ways to enjoy insects such as in pasta, crispbreads and cookies. Top-end restaurant chefs are doing marvellous things with insects on their menus, such as Barangaroo House in Sydney (save up for this dining experience), while Mexican restaurant El-topo also in Sydney offers a more affordable and authentic Mexican starter of crickets with chilli, garlic and lime.
Where do you buy them?
Most insects and insect food products are for sale online in Australia (such as The Edible Bug Shop), although they are available in supermarkets in more insect-advanced countries, such as Finland, Spain and The Netherlands. Some retailers are starting to carry cricket protein bars but they’re not yet as easy to find In Australia (this will change). You can buy plain whole frozen crickets or dry roasted plain or flavoured crickets. You can also buy cricket powder that is simply ground roasted crickets. Other approved insects for sale are roasted meal worms and black tyrant ants, and various other products from time to time when retailers have special permission to produce sell other species (scorpions anyone?). As the market grows and develops, the availability of insects will increase, and we can’t wait!