It’s the little legs, wings and antennas* that could make diners stop and think before tasting Australia’s latest food trend — insects.
As diners search for new sources of protein — and chefs look for eye-catching menus to stand out from the crowd — insects are beginning to appear on plates across the country.
And a growing demand for sustainable* local supply is being met by pioneering* “insect farmers”, the latest of whom* is Tasmanian Louise Morris.
Only a few months after beginning sales of crickets, mealworms and wood roaches, her Rebel Food business is growing quickly to meet demand.
“It seems people are up for trying things that aren’t our normal,” Ms Morris said.
“I think perhaps it’s because so many people travel, so they’ve been to Thailand, where insects are part of the street stall scene, or Mexico, where a bar snack is beer and crickets.
“It’s like if you asked someone in Australia in the 1980s ‘how many people do you think will be eating sushi in 10 years?’
“I’m sure all their estimates* would have been wildly off.”
There are many positives around using insects in food including health benefits (see the table above) and sustainability, with no landclearing required, low carbon emissions*, and Ms Morris’s insects fed on farm, food, beer and wine waste.
However, their biggest selling point is the taste.
Crickets have a flavour somewhere between cashews, sesame seeds and chickpeas; tyrant ants are a citrus* explosion in your mouth; while mealworms are similar to puffed rice.
Some of Hobart’s top chefs have embraced insect ingredients, including Mona executive chef Vince Trim, who is introducing them on menus at the gallery’s Faro restaurant.
“Insects have beautiful textures and flavours and fit in with so many different foods; we’ve used them with meat dishes, seafood, pastry and biscuits, drinks and cocktails,” Mr Trim said. “I think we need to get it out of people’s heads that they are an ugly bug in the garden. We eat other interesting-looking things, so why not insects?”
Mr Trim said diners had reacted positively.
“It’s like wallaby — 15 years ago I wouldn’t have used wallaby,” he said. “Now it’s normal and people have gotten over that fear factor of eating the Australian animal.
“I think the same process is going to occur with insects. You start small and next thing you know you are feeding your kids crunchy (insect) sandwiches.”
- antennas: long, thin sensory stalks on the heads of insects, crustaceans, and some other arthropods
- sustainable: able to be maintained at a certain rate or level
- pioneering: leading the way with new ideas
- whom: used instead of ‘who’ as the object of a verb or preposition
- estimates: rough calculations
- emissions: discharge of something such as gas
- citrus: flavour including lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit
LISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY
- Name three insects being used in Australian dishes.
- What are three benefits of using insects in cooking?
- What do the Rebel Foods insects feed on?
- What do tyrant ants taste like?
- Which Asian country serves insects as food from street stalls?
1. Creepy crawly cuisine
Some people may need a lot of convincing before they are ready to order a serving of insects from the menu. Can you use alliteration to help make insects seem like a more appealing meal? Make a list of as many creative dish names as you can that use alliteration (the repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of the words).
Examples: Crunchy cricket canapes with carrot coulis; Worcestershire worms on wilted wombok; etc.
Extension: Imagine you are out to dinner with someone you know and they don’t like the idea of ordering insects. Write down some facts that you could tell them that could help change their mind.
Time: Allow 15 minutes
Curriculum links: English
After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many wow words or ambitious pieces of vocabulary that you can find in yellow. Discuss the meanings of these words and see if you can use them orally in another sentence.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Would you eat a crunchy insect sandwich in your lunchbox? Or have you ever tried an unusual meal such as snails or crocodile? Tell us about it.
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking.