A traveler's guide to eating insects


A traveler's guide to eating insects

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Crickets are some of the most commonly eaten insects in the world and are regarded as a solution for the malnutrition problem plaguing Laos. Fried crickets and grasshoppers are sold at markets like this one in Vientiane. According to consumer feedback in the U.N. report, farmed crickets are tastier than the ones picked in the wild.

These long worms are considered delicacies in Thailand and many other southeast Asian countries. Called rot duan (meaning "express train") in Thai, the bamboo worm is commonly served as a deep-fried snack. They are normally found on sale via bug carts at night all over Thailand. CNN Travel's Bangkok resident Karla Cripps describes them as "delicious" and says a small bag of them costs 20 baht (around 65 cents).

Fried or grilled spiders are a popular daytime snack in Cambodia, and are sold in markets such as Phnom Penh's central market (shown here), and in city restaurants. Spiders are chock full of zinc and iron, and provide a significant source of income for many impoverished Cambodian farmers, says the U.N. report.

Tourists will find this Cambodian insect dish slightly more appealing than the giant spiders. Mixed in with beef and holy basil, the red tree ants add a sour flavor to this stir-fried dish.

Bug buffets hosted by the Specktakel restaurant in the Netherlands sold out last year -- the innovative restaurant served up samosas with mealworms and buffalo worms, and received rave reviews. Mealworms are also highly nutritious -- they're comparable to fish and meat in terms of protein, vitamin and mineral content, but are three times more expensive than pork and five times more expensive than chicken, says the U.N. report.

Although scorpions aren't technically 'insects,' they still made it onto the U.N. report. They're more of a tourist draw than conventional Chinese cuisine, and can be found at street stalls dotting Beijing's major shopping street of Wangfujing. "They taste like anything deep-fried -- crunchy and oily but no real flavor," says Soon Ho Lee, one of the adventurous tourists in this photo (left).

Chewing on locusts is nothing new in Asia. Japanese and Thais are partial to them too. Vendors at Beijing's popular Donghuamen Night Market out these six-legged insects as an environmentally friendly alternative to meat, and also for their high fiber content. Loaded with protein, deep-fried locust tastes a bit like fried chicken.

Called beondegi in Korean, boiled silkworm pupae are sold in small paper cups at street stalls in many Korean markets. Korea also uses silkworm powder as medicine for diabetes as it lowers blood glucose levels. This cup cost 2,000 won (about $2) from Seoul's Namdaemun market.

The annual Taipei Chinese Food Festival in August features all kinds of unusual dishes, including those made with different worm species. Local chefs reportedly like to use worms in their culinary endeavors for the subtle taste.

The classic Aussie bush tucker cliche -- this Australian caterpillar is a well-known staple of the indigineous Australian diet. It's highly filling -- just look at the size of that thing -- and can be eaten raw or seared/barbecued. "You will find the taste is quite pleasant, having a fried egg flavor with a hint of nuts and the skin resembles that of fried chicken," one Australian chef told us.

U.N. report argues more of us should eat insects
In places like Bangkok, eating things such as bamboo worms are the norm
Beijing's popular Donghuamen Night Market has quite the range

(CNN) -- According to a recent U.N. report, insects could be a solution to some of the world's food and health problems. They're nutritious, eco-friendly and abundant. Many countries already consider them a staple part of their diets.
So if we're all to start consuming locusts and scorpions, we can start in Southeast Asia for guidance.
They're a common sight in Bangkok.
Come nightfall, at any given outdoor market or busy road there will usually be at least one vendor with a pushcart loaded up with insect snacks, making many tourists squirm and others lick their lips.
Maybe you're in the mood for some fried crickets. Or perhaps it's the pile of bamboo worms that has you salivating. These bug vendors serve up to a dozen varieties of insects, which are usually fried in vegetable oil then sprayed with soy sauce to add some zing.
To locals, and some expats, these foods are not out of the ordinary -- they're part of the many meals on offer. Though most tourists prefer to munch on bugs for the shock value and to try something different -- check me out on Facebook/Instagram, how crazy am I? -- locals enjoy them for the flavor.
"Customers often like to eat fried insects while drinking beer, as a healthy and exotic replacement for popcorn or peanuts," one vendor says.
More on Thailand's fried bugs: A guide to Thailand's edible insects
Similar markets and food carts exist throughout Asia and other parts of the world.
Take some of the options at this Beijing night market -- fried scorpions, centipedes and locusts.
Going back to that U.N. report, it says 2 billion people around the world consider insects a delicacy or even a dietary staple.
Insects are generally high in nutritional value and beat out both meat and fish in protein content and quality. They're also rich in fiber and healthy micronutrients including copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium and zinc.
This makes insects the ideal food of the future, the U.N. says -- not just for the above parts of the world but globally. They will help promote health, wealth and a better environment and go some way to addressing current and potential food shortages.
Not only does chomping on a bamboo worm win you likes on Facebook, it helps save the world. Extra 'like.'
Read more about the U.N. report here, via eatocracy.
We've put together, in the above gallery, just a tiny entree-sized smorgasbord of some of the many insects eaten around the world.
For those in the United States or visiting, this great eatcracy piece lists several insect servers.
Who's hungry? Let us know your insect hits, and misses.

Source: A traveler's guide to eating insects

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