The concept of eating insects isn’t exactly revolutionary in Thailand — or in 80% of the world’s countries. Crawlies were caught from crops before trickling to big city markets — like Khao San Road in Bangkok, where tourists crunch on heavily salted, deep-fried bugs. But insects are going up in the fine-dining world, too, and Chef Mai Thitiwat is taking the food source to a new level.
Based in ChangChui creative complex — a bazaar of galleries, restaurants and bars in Bangkok — Insects in the Backyard is the country’s first fine-dining restaurant to eschew the deep fryer when it comes to bugs. Ravioli are filled with crab and water beetle meat; a beurre blanc sauce is infused with ant eggs for an acidic kick; and tiramisu is garnished with cocoa-dusted silkworms.
It’s all part of Thitiwat’s attempt to show value in what is usually overlooked. The benefits — health and environmental — are nothing to turn your nose up at. Insects are packed with protein, minerals and healthy fats, and if half of meat consumption was swapped with mealworm grubs and crickets, farmland could reduce by a third, according to a N8 Research Partnership study, cutting down on greenhouse gases emissions.
Other restaurants experimenting with crawly cuisine include Noma in Copenhagen (re-opening in a new location this January) and DOM in Sao Paulo.
Three to try: Bugging out
Britain’s first insect-themed restaurant is based on a working farm in Wales, dishing up the likes of mixed bug wellington for your Sunday lunch.
Toloache, New York City
Head to this Mexican restaurant with branches in Midtown, Downtown and the Upper East Side for a plate of Oaxacan-style grasshopper tacos.
Le Festin Nu, Paris
Mealworms and crickets are served as bar snacks at this bistro in Montmartre alongside insect-free options and a list of beers, wines and cocktails.
Try this: Anty Gin & Tonic
2 parts Anty Gin (containing essence of red wood ant)
3 parts high-quality tonic water
Dried whole cochineal insect, to decorate (optional)
1 drop of carmine (liquid cochineal), per glass
Half-fill a tumbler or highball glass with ice cubes, add the gin, carmine and tonic water. Stir lightly, decorate with dried whole cochineal, if using, and serve.
Find this recipe and more in On Eating Insects. phaidon.com
Published in the December 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)