Wednesday, 14 August 2013

I Don't Like Crickets ... Sous Chef and the Rentokil Restaurant

Bugs, Crickets, Grasshoppers
I have small hands and all


Growing up in Britain as a Burmese child was weird in a lot of ways.

One of these was that my diet was entirely Burmese at home. I didn't really cook or shop for food for myself till I was at college, so I genuinely never realised for example that asparagus made your wee smell (in fact, I used to think that there was something up with my future in-laws' plumbing, since their house was the only place I ate the stuff).


Bugs, Crickets, Grasshoppers
A plate of  fried crickets in Burma


And I didn't know that avocados could be savoury as I'd only had them in milkshakes and ice cream, and I only got to eat fish and chips from a bag when there was a power cut. I had my first McDonalds when I was 12 - and yet I had my first cricket when I was 8.

Crickets - those chirpy little beggars with too many legs and antennae. Known as payit in Burma, and sold on the streets of Mandalay and Yangon in huge bamboo trays, they were meaty and crunchy and incredibly delicious, fried in lashings of garlic, ginger and salt.

I knew that they weren't your usual snack - even I wasn't that dense - but, as the bugs were introduced to me at such a young age, I had no qualms at all at tucking in (and I'm still just as adventurous).



Bugs, Crickets, Grasshoppers
Cricket seller in Burma


So I was amused to see that Rentokil (yes, them) is running a one day pop-up restaurant at One New Change in London tomorrow from 10.30 am, exhorting people to try "BBQ grasshoppers and chocolate dipped bugs" amongst other things. There's no charge for the food either.

The Pestaurant (sic) has been billed as "exotic", which I guess is unsurprising as a large number of people in the UK still seems to think chicken on the bone is foreign, but if I was free during the day tomorrow, I'd obviously be there like a shot.



Bugs, Crickets, Grasshoppers
Rentokil Restaurant


If you're also intrigued by edible insects (they're a future food, after all) and you can't make it down there either, I have two suggestions for you:
  1. Visit Archipelago, the other bastion of edible creepy crawlies;
  2. Go online to Sous Chef and buy some bugs for yourself.

Now, Sous Chef is my new favourite website, supplying hard-to-find ingredients to the home chef - and amongst all the other culinary wonder, they've just started stocking fried grasshoppers called chapulines from Oaxaca, Mexico.



Bugs, Crickets, Grasshoppers
Wooden Tortoise is unimpressed


Of course, I couldn't resist ordering a pack. When they arrived though, I was a bit startled to find how tiny they were.

It's not just that the bugs were bigger because I was a wee lass - just look at the size of our Burmese crickets.



Bugs, Crickets, Grasshoppers
This is a normal sized man selling the crickets


Anyway, I shared the pack with my brother and my father, who agreed with me that, although fresh-fried crickets in Burma are the cricket connoisseur's choice, these Mexican grasshoppers weren't bad at all.

Fried in chilli and lemon, perhaps they're a little sour to eat by themselves, but I can see that ground up they'd make a lovely garnish to a salad (or the suggested fajitas) - rather like a more savoury sumac.

And of course you can also use them to freak other people out, like I did my nephew, though the niece was quite keen - she obviously takes after me.



Bugs, Crickets, Grasshoppers
I don't like crickets (I love them)


11 comments:

  1. Could you make a burger out of them though?

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  2. brilliant post! I grew up in suburban London surrounded by many different cultures which my mum totally embraced... we never went as far as crickets but I used to take taramosalata sandwiches to school and all my friends could never understand why I had pink sandwiches!... I love the pestaurant idea, it's a PR stunt for sure but at least they're embracing their waste products!

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    1. It is rather fun, once you get past the thought of rats :) And hooray for taramosalata sarnies!

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  3. I ate crickets and cicadas in China. They were mostly crunchy, but failed to chew them properly and ended up with a hairy insect leg stuck in my soft palate. Three days of coughing later I managed to fit enough of my hand into my mouth to fish the damn leg out. Let this be a warning to anyone dining in the Pestoraunt: chew your insects properly.

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  4. Hey, nice new look! Hope you're doing well. I think I could do crickets with a nice coating of panko. :)

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    1. Thanks Dennis - I felt like a change!

      Ooh, nice idea! Cricket katsu? Or maybe cricket tempura too? ;)

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  5. Shame you weren't able to go!

    I'm generally pretty adventurous, will try most things once. I don't get why in the UK one four legged animal is perfectly acceptable as food and another is decried as barbaric. What is it with the British and their bloody pet syndrome? I say this as a Brit myself, born in London but to Indian immigrant parents.

    The only rule I have, and it's a personal choice, is that I won't eat an animal that is endangered or one that is still alive when I eat it. I am confident that if it's killed just before I eat it that's I'm not going to lose out on the freshness front!

    I've enjoyed various insects I've eaten, though I've not tried crickets. I really liked mopane worms in Southern Africa (which are caterpillars). Those were delicious!

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    1. PS I HAVE to share this - my security word verification thing for the above was "116 ants8of" --- ha!

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    2. I want to try those worms!

      ps my mum is always going on about the bloody pet syndrome - one of her sisters has a cat and she think she's soft in the head ;)

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Thanks for taking the time to comment!