BUG APPETITE: Is that gonna be a cricket with your cocktail?

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Insect cuisine is popular in the city’s culinary scene, with a variety of established restaurants offering mouth-watering dishes full of flavor and, well, bugs.

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Fancy some fire-roasted crickets to accompany your cocktail?

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Or maybe an order of sautéed grasshoppers to sprinkle on your salad?

You’d be surprised to know that insect cuisine continues to be popular in the city’s culinary scene, with a variety of established restaurants offering wonderful mouth-watering platters full of flavor… and, well, bugs.

They are served fried, sautéed, roasted, minced and crushed to form a nice cocktail edge. Or ground into a powder and incorporated into everything from soups to banana bread.

Mealworms make a medium protein ball. Crickets and grasshoppers add a certain essence of umami to a plate of vegetables. Served as is or slipped into delicious dips, even inside your favorite ice cream, these tiny little yum creatures are not only full of delicious flavors, but loaded with incredible nutritional benefits.

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“Crickets, for example, contain twice as much protein as beef, are a rich source of iron and calcium, contain all essential amino acids, are a source of fiber, are GMO-free, gluten-free and dairy-free. – and they’re keto and paleo, ”says Jarrod Goldin, president of award-winning Entofarms in Peterborough, a company that supplies tons of crickets not only to North America, but to Europe and Japan.

Cricket powder alone is “very high in prebiotic fiber and is a great alternative to whey protein powder,” adds Goldin, who provides crickets in powdered and whole form.

Bloomberg Business Week reports that crickets, beetles, mealworms and maggots are about to give the entire herbal movement a run for its money.

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“Everyone is looking at the environmental impact of food supply, so there is great potential for growth,” says Tunyawat Kasemsuwan of Thai Union Group Pcl in www.bloomberg.com of Companies Seeking Diversification in insect protein.

Here’s the problem, explains Goldin, who runs Entofarms with his two brothers: “Three billion people eat insects every day, not because they have no other food source, but because they are a great choice. food that’s good for you, and delicious too.

Recent Death In Venice Halloween Ice Cream
Recent Death In Venice Halloween Ice Cream Photo provided /Death in Venice

“In fact, crickets taste similar to sunflower seeds,” says Kaya Ogruce, famous ice cream maker at the head of Death In Venice ice cream shop in the west of town (www.deathinvenice.ca), where flavors range from traditional to incredible (cheese, anyone?), and who recently created a delicious cricket-inspired gelato for Halloween.

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Ogruce says “if you close your eyes and put a roasted cricket in your mouth you would be surprised how crisp and delicious it is… crickets are the blank canvas of the food world. “

Grasshopper Tacos at Xola Restaurant at 2222 Queen Street E. in Toronto, Ont.  Saturday, December 4, 2021. ERNEST DOROSZUK / TORONTO SUN
Grasshopper Tacos at Xola Restaurant at 2222 Queen Street E. in Toronto, Ont. Saturday, December 4, 2021. ERNEST DOROSZUK / TORONTO SUN

People have been eating insects for not decades but centuries, adds Chef Mali Fernandez, of the famous Xola restaurant on Queen St. E., (www.xolarestaurant.com) where delicate homemade blue corn tortillas are served with a generous serving of seasoned and crunchy ‘chapulinas’ accompanied by a side of green salsa and grilled avocado.

Born in Mexico, Fernandez says incorporating insects into dishes “isn’t new, but part of my culture. We eat crickets, worms and insects, end of story. They are tasty but also full of protein. When we first started putting bugs on our menu, people were initially, “What?” Is it real?’ And then they started to realize that insects are only part of the food chain – and to appreciate food. “

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Xola Restaurant is famous for its insect dishes.  ERNEST DOROSZUK / TORONTO SUN
Xola Restaurant is famous for its insect dishes. ERNEST DOROSZUK / TORONTO SUN

Fernandez, who sources insects in Mexico, sees herself as an educator of cuisines that may seem foreign “but which are quite ordinary when you look at the role of insects in the food chain.”

Has the interest decreased?

“Not at all! People come in and are always happy to try the grasshopper tacos or the cricket guacamole.

Cookie Martinez from popular Colombian street food Toronto’s Cookie Martinez on Dupont Street (www.cookiemartinez.com) is dedicated to teaching people the merits of eating bugs, one delicious recipe at a time. She is well known in insect circles and has participated in a variety of culinary events where little critters play the leading roles in many dishes as part of the educational process.

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Don’t believe Cookie’s Cricket Empanadas are so good.

“I’ve been dedicated to creating delicious recipes since I was a young girl in my mom’s kitchen in Bogotá, Colombia,” Martinez said. “Now I cook Colombian street food, and that includes cooking with bugs. “

Cookie says her ingredient repertoire also includes mealworms and silkworms, depending on availability, but says it will take some time for Canadians in general to warm up to the thought of eating bugs.

“I’ve been working with insects since 2013 and I don’t see much of (them) being incorporated into people’s diets anytime soon,” she said.

Others see the whole insectivorous sector of Canadian society growing: “People have an appetite for more sustainable, healthier foods,” says Goldin, (https://entomofarms.com/), who is currently working with Loblaws to produce a delicious snack that looks like a sheet of cheese but made with cricket powder. “For us, the demand exceeds what we are currently producing. “

For those who are hesitant about the very idea of ​​eating a roasted cricket, however well seasoned it is, what would Goldin suggest? “There is a great analogy between what water is in a liquid state and insects to food,” Goldin said. “It’s about being passionate about our health, while keeping in mind the sustainability of food choices… the bugs tick all the boxes. “

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