For many people, the idea of tucking into a bowl full of fried crickets is a scene from a nightmare, but as it turns out, tasty fried critters are hopping into the mainstream.
El Topo Mexican in Sydney’s Bondi Junction prides itself on its authentic Mexican cuisine, but one dish on the menu tends to jump out at its patrons.
‘Chapulines’ are fried crickets, traditionally eaten as a snack in the Oaxaca region of Mexico.
Yep crickets. But don’t be scared, these insects are seriously delicious.
The six-legged base ingredient might turn people off, but the crunchy and delicious dish changed my mind as soon as I took my first bite.
Seasoned with garlic, chilli, a pinch of salt and fresh lime, in parts of Mexico they nibble on the dish while enjoying a beer, much like we would graze on peanuts.
“They’re quite popular here because if you see Sydney there are not many restaurants selling crickets or Chapulines,” El Topo’s head chef Nowshad Rasel told Yahoo Lifestyle.
Nowshad keeps customers coming back with his own unique spin on the traditional recipe.
He bakes, then lightly pan-fries the crickets, where traditionally they are deep-fried. He also puts special emphasis on the lime, which he says enhances the snack’s natural flavour.
He says the people who order the buggy bar snack are a mixture of Mexican ex-pats, thrill seekers, the curious, and those that have had the snack before.
Superfood of the future
Zesty and light, the snack is also packed with nutrients and a future superfood, according to epidemiologist and food scientist Skye Blackburn.
“It is a fantastic source of protein,” Skye told Yahoo Lifestyle. “It’s also a whole food, so it’s really giving your body a lot of the things it needs.”
She says the amount of goodness that can be derived from crickets far outstrips the traditional foods we pack our fridges with.
“Crickets have four times the amount of calcium as milk, three times the amount of iron as spinach and three times the amount of omega-3 as salmon,” she says.
Skye owns and operates Australia’s largest bug breeding farm, and supplies El Topo and other retailers with their buggy ingredients through The Edible Bug Shop.
She agrees with Nowshad, saying eating bugs is gaining popularity and slowly but surely wriggling its way into the main stream.
“Now people are a lot more open-minded to eating insects as a source of food,” she says.
And when you pair them with a cold beer on a warm afternoon at El Topo’s colourful rooftop restaurant and bar, it’s not hard to see why people are jumping on the bandwagon.
Nowshad says for every brave soul that tries the confronting dish, he gains a loyal customer because they always come back for more.
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