How desperate and how hungry would you be to include a variety of insects and bugs in your daily diet?
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which leads international efforts to defeat hunger, more than 90 countries, mainly in Africa, Latin America and Asia, consume over 1,000 different species of insects to satisfy their hunger. With a high protein content, the most common insects eaten are beetles, ants, bees, wasps, grasshoppers, crickets, moths, caterpillars and butterflies. While countries in Africa and Latin America are eating these creatures to supplement their diet, Asians have been eating bugs and insects for centuries because they are considered delicacies ” haute cuisine, so to speak. And that’s what Japanese Chef Shoichi Uchiyama wants people to know, as he promotes his recently published 256-page recipe book “Tanoshii Konchu Ryori”(translated to mean, “Enjoy Bug Eating Recipes”).
The book, which has not yet been translated into English and is not yet available online, features 80 recipes for a variety of Japanese and western-style entrees, as well as bug-based desserts. The book is augmented with 64 color photos that illustrate the use of giant cockroaches, moth pupae and assorted bugs, spiders, caterpillars and hornets.
Uchiyama’s book came to life after decades of being fascinated with eating bugs and insects. The 59-year old chef felt it was time to share his passion with others. He has a website Konchu Ryori Kenkyu (Bug Eating Recipe Studies) and a blog, where he and like minded individuals arrange monthly bug-eating expeditions to Tokyo restaurants to exchange ideas and review cooking techniques, taste and presentation.
Eating Bugs is a Normal Part of Everyday Culture
Uchiyama grew up in Nagano, an area of Japan where eating bugs was considered a normal part of the everyday culture and where bags of grasshoppers are sold cooked in sake, soy sauce and sugar. Meals with silkworms and locusts were extremely common, and during the autumn months, hornet larvae was a much-anticipated delicacy. But of all the insects available for consumption (and Uchiyama claims to have sampled almost all 1,000 varieties) his favorite are spring cicada larvae. “They have a slightly nutty flavor, but the texture when you bite into the body is like that of a good prawn,” he said, in an interview with the Telegraph. He also likes fresh, yellow hornet larvae, blanched in boiling water for 30 seconds, cooled and served with soy sauce and wasabi.
Currently a resident of Tokyo, Uchiyama is a true believer in the viability of bugs and insects as an up and coming food trend to help eradicate world hunger. He believes insects can be a healthy and nutritious solution to the world’s growing food shortages. He points out during his cookbook promotional tours that we waste too much land and grain feeding cows for their beef, and stresses that insects eat less food and can be housed in much smaller spaces. “Most importantly, insects are very nutritionally balanced, have little fat and are the perfect food source,” he stated during his interview with the Telegraph.
Bugs and Insects Provide Nutritional Benefits
Uchiyama has valid points. Academic studies show that insects are nutritional powerhouses and many are even more nutritionally balanced than meat or fish. They are high in protein, grow faster in much smaller spaces and require less food than cattle, poultry or fish. They also don’t compete with humans over food, and can be farmed in some of the most unlikely places, such as the remnants of vegetable gardens.
The United National Food and Agriculture Organization agrees with Uchiyama. They see first-hand how many third-world areas are desperate for food, and feel that insects can be part of the global solution to the problem. While many in what is considered the “civilized”world may find human consumption of insects unappetizing, there are still those 90 countries that depend on bugs and insects to fulfill some of their dietary needs.
Uchiyama hopes his cookbook will open the minds of those who have never eaten bugs or insects before and become fans of the Asian delicacies. He dreams that someday bugs will be just as availabale as chicken, beef and fish on supermarket shelves around the world.
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