Eating bugs is uncommon in American culture. However, insects form a more nutritious and complete source of protein than animal sources, including fish. One hundred grams of grasshoppers has 26 grams of protein and six grams of fat, compared to sirloin beef which has 29 grams of protein and 21 grams of fat. In countries in Africa, Asia and South America, the eating of insects, also known as entomophagy, is commonplace.
The Chinese view entomophagy as a delicacy. An order of roasted bee larvae or fried silkworms contains vitamins and minerals such as iron, coppoer, thiamine, riboflavin and zinc. Other bugs commonly eaten in China include ant soup, which is enjoyed in the winter months, boiled water bugs soaked in vinegar, as well as a dish called baijiu. Baijiu are live scorpions covered in hearty liquor.
The Japanese have eaten bugs for centuries. Today, those dwelling in cities find the eating of bugs taboo, while those living in rural areas view entomophagy as a means of survival during hard times. However, as more restaurants offer traditional insect dishes, more people in urban areas are beginning to catch on. Popular choices include fried cicada and grasshopper, boiled wasp larvae and fried silk moth pupae.
Entomophagy is also a century-old staple of Mexican cuisine.The most common insects eaten are worms submerged in a glass of mezcal, an alcoholic drink made popular in the state of Oaxaca. Other bugs eaten in Mexico include crunchy French fried catepillars, and ant eggs soaked in butter. Dessert varieties are also popular, including chocolate covered locusts and candy coated worms.
The most popular insect eaten in Brazil is the queen ant. This snack was made popular in the town of Silverias, when lower income residents would collect ants from October to November. Today, all classes of people enjoy these ants for their minty flavour. The wings are removed and the ant is served fried or dipped in chocolate.
Going to a bar in Thailand, you are more likely to find a bowl of fried insects instead of pretzels or peanuts. In Bangkok, fried insects are a common snack sold by street vendors. The most popular fried insect is a deep fried cricket called Jing Leed. It is served with a soy-like sauce called golden mountain sauce and pepper.
Termites are a healthy snack eaten in Ghana. In the spring season when food sources are in short supply, the termite is an important means of survival for the people, when heavy rains force termites to surface from their underground habitats. Termites are fried or ground into flour for baking.
While the United States is not known for entomophagy, more and more Americans are opening their minds to this food source. Reality TV shows have both contributed to and broken down the stigma of eating bugs. Candy stores in California are selling cricket lollipops and chocolate covered ants. Chances are, you've probably eaten insects and not known it. Cochineal is an insect native to South America that is used to produce red dyes found in candies that are sold in the U.S.