And no, it does not taste like chicken.
As we’ve talked about before, kabutomushi, or Japanese rhinoceros beetles, have been a popular pet among Japanese children for generations. However, sort of like temporary tattoos or Velcro sneakers, kabutomushi-raising is a hobby that most people are expected to grow out of as they get older.
Recently, our Japanese-language reporter Seiji was reminiscing about his childhood. Like all boys his age, he wanted a kabutomushi of his very own, but his parents wouldn’t buy one for him, which has left him with a lingering regret from missing out on a quintessential childhood pastime. As he got a misty look in his eyes, we decided to do something nice for Seiji and gave him some cash so that he could have a kabutomushi.
Oh, but by “have” we mean “eat.”
See, just a few days ago we heard that Chinjuya, a pub in the city of Yokohama’s Noge neighborhood, had added a new item to its menu: rhinoceros beetles.
Seiji climbed the steps and entered the pub, finding himself in an interior that was dimly lit. That’s an understandable choice, seeing as how Chinjuya (which means “strange beast restaurant”) serves not only kabutomushi, but also giant isopods and piranhas.
Despite ingredients that many, including the vast majority of people in Japan, would call gross, Chinjuya isn’t about to neglect the artful presentation that characterizes Japanese culinary culture, and Seiji’s beetle arrived tastefully arranged on a plate along with a wedge of lemon and slice of watermelon.
Don’t worry, Chinjuya doesn’t go out to the park and scrounge up the food it feeds to its customers. The kabutomushi it serves are specifically raised for consumption and take three years to reach edible size, an amount of time reflected in their 1,480-yen (US$13.50) price on the menu.
But caught in the wild or not, a beetle is a beetle, so Seiji needed a few moments to build up the nerve to actually eat it. He was somewhat emboldened by the fact that he’s previously eaten Japanese diving beetles and scarabs, and remembered from those occasions that once you find the courage to actually start eating insects, they often don’t taste all that bad.
▼ When you work for SoraNews24, some days you get two eat two McDonald’s burgers at once, and some days you just eat bugs.
If you’re wondering how you’re supposed to remove the meat from the exoskeleton, you don’t. Chinjuya’s kabutomushi are cooked and eaten whole, as finger food.
The shell remains crisp after cooking, so there’s a lot of audible crunching involved as you chew. So how does it taste? “Overwhelmingly earthy, with a tiny trace of India ink-flavor at the end.,” Seiji told us, with an expression that was disturbingly calm for someone who’d just eaten a whole beetle.
▼ And no, we’re not sure why Seiji knows what India ink tastes like.
That may not sound all that appealing, but it does fit nicely with Chinjuya’s motto, which is “The taste of nature, with absolutely no guarantee of deliciousness!”
Chinjuya / 珍獣屋
Kanagawa-ken, Yokohama-shi, Naka-ku, Nogecho 1-45
Open 5 p.m.-9 p.m. (weekdays, Sunday), 5 p.m.-11 p.m. (Saturday)
[ Read in Japanese ]