Today there is a lovely but light article in the Wall Street Journal about insect-eating in trendy restaurants, with some information about the logistical problems in procuring, serving, and selling insects for edible consumption to a sometimes only mildly curious American public.
Of the several establishments listed, I’ve only eaten at one. Typhoon is a pan-Asian restaurant above a small private-plane airport in Santa Monica. (Yes, the ones who also own the sushi restaurant that was caught serving whale meat. Suffice to say I am no longer a fan.) They served insect dishes common throughout Thailand and China, some tastier than others. The finest were their ant-egg pot stickers. The ‘eggs’ were weaver ant pupae, with added vegetables and spices. The Chambai ants were large Chinese ants, flown fresh from Manchuria, that when sprinkled over rice tasted like a zesty vinaigrette. Also, you got to pretend that your rice was filled with ants and then eat them. A more acquired taste for the wary was the grilled crickets, which were roasted and presented with tomatoes. I thought them nutty and crunchy, but many friends were unsettled by having insects between their teeth. (I’d far prefer that than part of a large mammal!) . Less delicious but still interesting was the centipede soup, a bitter Chinese medicinal soup with a dried centipede as part of the herbal components. And last and least was the deep-fried scorpion, which tasted like rancid crab. Though I have warm (and tasty) memories of eating my first insects prepared in the style of Thailand and China, the quality of their food went downhill many years ago, and the prices went up. What was once a mound of ants became a small thimble-full over a bed of shoestring potatoes.
So where does that leave insect-eaters on the West Coast? It’s been a while since I have been served insects on a platter. Time to start hunting!