Japan Today



More Japanese gourmands bugging out on insects


"Let's open the door to 'Konchushoku,'" reads the headline in the July issue of Shincho 45 magazine. "Konchu" means bugs or insects; "shoku" means eat. Eating bugs. Yuck!!

Hold on, writes Shoichi Uchiyama, director of Japan's Research Group for Insect Cuisine, who in an 8-page article outlines some reasons why gulping down bugs can be a good thing.

In 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations issued a 200-page report on insect consumption, which is recommending as one of the ways of dealing with rising human population and global climate change.

Even prior to that, in May 2011, Uchiyama's organization was formed, and by 2015 the government accorded it NPO status. And to raise awareness of how yummy bugs can be when imaginatively prepared, he organized activities.

Last November 24, the fifth annual "Chu-fest" was held in Tokyo. The timing of the event is not coincidental: it's purposely set as close as possible to Japan's annual Labor Thanksgiving Day holiday. Who needs roast turkey with all the trimmings when you go hiking in the woods and harvest your own feast for free?

Uchiyama introduces some winning recipes from Japan's first insect cuisine contest. The grand prix went to Satoshi Tokuno for his "Bug Paella." Seasoned with saffron, it contains bee larvae, Argentine forest roaches and Taiwan locusts. Magnifico!

Other winners included spring rolls with a filling of mealy grubs and cheese; gnocchi stuffed with silkworm pupae; rice steamed with vegetables and locusts; and deep fried "hampen" (a white, fluffy fish cake) stuffed with cheese and mealy grubs.

In 2014, the grand prix was captured by Aiko Hashimoto, who wowed the judges with mochi (glutenous rice) rolled in a mixture of cicada exoskeletons and round-leaved sundew, a carnivorous plant that feeds on insects.

It's been said that three silkworm larvae contain the nutrition equivalent to a single chicken's egg. Comparing protein relative to total mass, the former rates 63%, as opposed to 51.5% for the latter. And the larvae contain considerably less fat. Locusts, meanwhile, boast 76.8% protein and just 5.5% fat. Crickets are nearly just as nutritious, and actually recommended as a food by the U.N.

Of course, one needs to bear in mind certain precautions when eating insects, the first of these being to abstain from those whose bodies produce toxins. As a general rule, insects should always be cooked at high temperature during preparation. People should be on guard for allergies as they would for shellfish or crustaceans. And it's also advisable to indulge only when a person is in the pink of health. By the same token, when anything causes a sensation of discomfort, bug-eating should be halted immediately.

The favorites that Uchiyama lists in his own "top ten" take the form of eggs, grubs, pupae and adult insects. Here they are:

1) White kamikiri (longhorn beetle) grubs ("they've got a deep flavor and are creamy, like 'toro' cuts from tuna") 2) Japanese giant hornet pupae ("deep rich taste and texture like tofu") 3) Wasp pupae ("flavor resembles eel") 4) Large brown cicada larvae ("deep fried, they have a nutty taste") 5) Hawk moth larvae ("aroma similar to cherry tree leaves") 6) Taiwan giant water bugs ("aroma like western pears") 7) Migratory locusts ("taste like shrimp --- and they turn pink when deep fried") 8) Silkworm eggs ("they have a chewy texture") 9) Nut weevil grubs ("sweet and creamy") 10) Japanese silk moths larvae ("sauteeing brings out their deep flavor, with a texture akin to tofu")

Nature, sums up Uchiyama, is truly a treasurehouse of things to eat. He extends the welcome mat to Shincho 45 readers to his future bug-eating meets, assuring those who undergo the enlightening experience that they'll become reacquainted with the "basic starting points of eating."

Except for the earth's polar regions, insects exist everywhere, and Japan alone has over 100,000 varieties. Just step outside your door, and you'll soon encounter something that might be edible. To make it happen, of course, you need to discard your fixated negative attitudes toward our six-legged pests -- er, friends. When you do so, you'll be opening the door to "nature's enormous restaurant."

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I recall one of the weekly magazines advertising an elixir for men that used ants as its main ingredient. Claimed that since an ant can lift many times its own weight, ingesting these pills will make any man who ingested them into a sexual athlete. Doesn't get much sillier than that.

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Today we give thanks to the brave sacrifices of edible insects.

Thank you, dear meals.

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crustpunker@Please pass me another slice of that yummy nut weevil grub pie.

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You got it brah! Also, I was saving this for a special occassion but I figure it would be better to share. I have crafted wasp pupae spread for toasted breads and bagels.

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Actually I'm told that locusts are the only member of the insect family designated as kosher, so you might want to substitute that on your bagels.

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The grand prix went to Satoshi Tokuno for his “Bug Paella.” Seasoned with saffron, it

No thanks, I'll pass.

Thanksgiving Day holiday. Who needs roast turkey with all the trimmings when you go hiking in the woods and harvest your own feast for free?

No thanks, I don't eat "bugs". This is a disgusting story from start to end. & Uchiyama's #1-10 list is just so wrong!

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Inago are great fried or as rice ball rolling, as are many other insects.

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insects exist everywhere, and Japan alone has over 100,000 varieties. Just step outside your door, and you’ll soon encounter something that might be edible.

When I step out the door, there are many conbini & supermarkets too. Selling "real" food. And not something slimy or filthy-crawling in the dirt that I'd rather stomp on with the heel of my boots.

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Strikes me as far less surprising in Japan, or Asia in general, than say, the USA, or the UK. When I was a tyke in Tokyo, in 1964-66, I could go to any of a number of Obasan / Ojiisan shops and buy candied grasshoppers or fried silk worms - packaged, 10 yen for a dozen, or something like that. Wasn't a big deal. I expect that's harder to find now, though.

You can easily buy bug-based nutrition and candy bars online now - also cricket flour; use like protein powder. If you ever see "Chapulines" on a Mexican restaurant menu, that's fried crickets. It's a reasonable bet that in the near future a lot more of us will be consuming bug protein.

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When i lived in Thailand i would often munch of grilled insects and scorpions taste good and very healthy. One night i bit into a big bug and the juices squished and squirted inside my mouth. Never again!

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"Only good bugs are et bugs!" - pace, Heinlein... but seriously I love that popcorn shrimp from Bubba's, not to mention escargot from Chez Paul's, as mentioned the Kosher locusts (Inago in Japan; once I thought I was getting Anago in Nagano but it wasn't quite the same) and the occasional cicadas mah cousins up north ate. BTW being a real Texan I relish mah possum pie and after all I grew up on them frog legs mah Cajun Granny used to make! As Mah Ma used to say, "Shush and eat up yer grub"!

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@Wc626 that's what we call "mottainai"

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This is disgusting, our ancestors would had the troubles of spending hours, sometimes days, of their lives in a perilous activity such as hunting, instead of going for the easy alternative of insect harvesting for a reason, your body is what you eat. People nowadays sum everything to just "proteins, carbs or fat", and all of this scientific crap, but I bet theres much more to it. Now tell me, are eggs good for you or not? So much for your trusty science.

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