When people think of Japanese cuisine, most likely sushi, tempura, sake and green tea are at the top of the list — but not edible insects. Surely a modern, developed country with plenty of food choices available doesn’t rely on edible insects? Yet, numerous Japanese folks do choose to eat them as part of their local cuisine — particularly in Gifu and Nagano prefectures.
There’s even a bug restaurant, as well as an insect-eating club in Tokyo that has upcoming events, but before we let you know where to taste these critters — let’s see what’s on the menu!
1. Inago (rice grasshoppers)
Rice grasshoppers, or inago, are found throughout Japan. They are common pests in rice paddy fields. Before World War II, inago were a common food in inland areas. Ask the Japanese and they will tell you that inago used to be a prime source of protein. Especially when located far from coastal areas, in the mountainous regions where fish and shellfish were not abundant and livestock was only farmed on a limited scale. Inago thrive in the rice fields when modern pesticides are not used. Large amounts of the grasshoppers were collected simply by hand or by using nets. This is really smart because:
- Rice grasshoppers are a highly nutritious food (good source of protein)
- Removing them protects the rice (scientists call this mechanical control as opposed to chemical control)
- It’s free (rice grasshoppers are natural resources)
The males can grow up to three centimeters in length and females up to four centimeters. Today, inago are still harvested in the Tohoku region and distributed throughout Japan.
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