Imagine a place where in addition to the usual Meat and Fish categories on a dinner menu, you had your choice from Insects and Amphibians. If you grew up with it, you probably wouldn't think it unusual in the slightest. In fact, some 1,700 species of bugs are eaten in more than 100 countries around the world.
That's what the waiter at Typhoon restaurant in Santa Monica told me when he saw my jaw drop into my lap upon scanning their menu (ants, sea worms, and frogs' legs are just a few of the delicacies they feature). And no, I wasn't really feeling squeamish, just taken by surprise. Of course, I knew insects were consumed back in ancient Greece and Rome. In fact, the 1st century Roman scholar Pliny wrote that aristocrats enjoyed beetle larvae. And in one of his writings, Aristotle described the ideal time to harvest cicadas for the best taste.
And, sure, I'd heard about people eating dogs in parts of China (check out this vid here for proof—however, not for the faint-of-heart). And, sure, I even know people right here in this country who like to eat things like turtle soup, or shark (thresher shark sandwiches are a staple at this Naples, Florida restaurant), but the items on Typhoon's menu really knocked the wind out of me for a second. And made me curious as to what else I could find on some menus around the world. Here are the results:
To insects, all species of scorpions are poisonous and usually deadly. But only a very small number of the more than 1,000 known species can be dangerous to humans. In Singapore, where Scorpions are eaten most often, the bugs are usually fried and then skewered. Some eateries, however, will serve them on a chunk of battered white fish, tempura-style.
In Mexico they call them chapulines, even though that's not the Spanish word for grasshoppers. No, the word chapulines comes from the Nahuatl language and is most often used in Oaxaca, where the special grasshoppers are consumed in abundance when in season (between May and September). They're sold as snacks at baseball games, where they're fried or barbecued and then seasoned with garlic, chiles and lemon. In Oaxaca City, they're also often found stuffed in quesadillas.
Not too long ago, Thailand was facing a major locust problem. Even though they're considered clean because they mostly feed on the leaves of rice-plants, who wants locusts taking over their country? When traditional pesticides didn't solve the problem, the country hit upon a solution: Eat "˜em! That's right, the government even handed out special recipes explaining how the critters could be enjoyed in a variety of different ways. In this photo you see them served fried.
4. Maguey Worms
Considered a delicacy in some parts of Mexico, these worms, or larvae of a giant butterfly called the tequila giant skipper, or aegiale hesperiaris, are actually very healthy and nutritious. Usually deep-fried or braised with a spicy sauce, they're most often served in a tortilla.
The Taiwanese eat lots of different kinds of bugs, including sautÃ©ed caterpillars, but crickets are one of the most common delicacies you'll find. They're prepared by stir-frying them with chili pepper, basil, garlic and then mixed and served atop a bed of shoestring potatoes.
What's the strangest thing you've ever eaten and where did you have it? Would you try it again?