Those of you who abhor the very idea of eating food that’s been anywhere near a creepy-crawly may wish to look away now.
Here at RocketNews24 we like to pride ourselves on our willingness to take up unusual food challenges. If we’re not baking Big Mac bread or gorging on bacon, we’re fighting our way through a kilo of curry and rice for your enjoyment. So as soon as word reached Rocket Towers that a nearby restaurant was serving up genuine insect cuisine, our reporter Mr Sato immediately sprang into action and boarded a train to Takadanobaba.
Who’d have thought that deep-fried imomushi (hairless caterpillars or hornworms) could be so delicious that they could bring smiles to our reporter’s face?
Serving a huge variety of Shan cuisine, restaurant Nongu Inrei, just a couple of stops north of Shinjuku on the Yamanote line, also features traditional insect dishes. We’ll admit that this might sound pretty awful at first, but in the words of our own reporter, “this stuff is so good that I could eat dish after dish of it.”
There are no doubt plenty of people who out there who would never even entertain the idea of tucking in to a bowl of cooked insects, but when you consider that in many mountainous areas of Asia insect cuisine has existed for generations and provides a vital source of protein, perhaps we’re being a little quick to pass judgement. After all, with more than 200 different recipes and ways of eating these little guys, there has to be something to it, right?
- Guaranteed not to be slimy!
Perhaps the main reason most of us dislike the idea of eating insects so much is because we imagine that they’d be soft and slimy. Rest assured that this isn’t the case. Sitting down with a big bowl of fried caterpillars, our reporter describes the unusual dining experience:
“When they hear the word ‘insect cuisine’, people often have the image in their heads of live insects squirming around or wobbling on the tip of a fork. But since the imomushi used in this style of cooking are deep-fried and have lost almost all of their water content, they’re actually very crispy and dry. Biting into one, they’re quite crunchy and, dare I say it, have a taste not dissimilar to roasted peanuts. In fact, I’d say that if you were to eat these things while blindfolded, you’d struggle to tell the difference. They’d make a wonderful beer snack!”
- Nice with rice!
“I could have sat and munched on a plate of them alone, but sprinkled on top of some fluffy white rice I couldn’t put my chopsticks down,” admits our reporter. “The slightly salty taste of the imomushi brought out the sweetness in the rice. Add to this a tiny spoonful of soy sauce and you’d got a dish that will appeal to anyone who’s fond of Japanese dishes.”
Is anyone else starting to salivate at the thought of eating insects yet!?
- But why stop at rice?
Tucking in to the steaming bowl of rice and crisp insects, Food Queen Sato started coming up with other possible combinations and ways to enjoy the savoury wrigglers:
“I can’t help but imagine that these little guys would work incredibly well in a caesar salad. In place of croutons, imomushi would be a great crunchy accompaniment and would work well with the dressing.” You know, we could see that working! As well as the caterpillars looking right at home amongst the leaves, the diner gets a healthy dose of protein instead of just empty crouton carbohydrates! Genius!
“This might sound ridiculous, but if you’re even the slightest bit sceptical, I challenge you to try a few with rice sometime;” our reporter assured us,”I swear you won’t be disappointed.”
■ Restaurant Information:
Nongu Inrei Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Takadanobaba 2-19-7 TAK11
Open 11:30 ~ 23:30 seven days a week
▼Imomushi! You’re so tasty!
▼This year’s greatest beer snack?
▼Just two stops from Shinjuku station
[ Read in Japanese ]