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Pan-fried crickets: The food of the future?

Ento Box

Sesame honey caterpillar mousse cubes, cricket croquettes and carrot and potato en glaze

A team of students believe the perfect food source to prevent hunger in our rapidly expanding world is right under our feet. The staple they’re proposing is rich in protein, low in fat, environmentally friendly and easy to harvest.

The downside? They have six legs, and are, by most Western accounts, the last thing you’d want to find on your dinner plate: insects. 

But Aran Dasan, Jacky Chung, Jonathan Fraser and Julene Aguirre-Bielchowsky of the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London are so convinced that insects should be the food of the future that they embarked on a project to make them a bit more gastronomically appealing. (After all, bugs are already considered a culinary delight in many parts of Africa, Asia and South America.)

“There is currently a major cultural taboo against eating insects in the West. They have many negative connotations that are simply not true: People see them as dirty, gooey and unsafe. They certainly don’t see them as an exciting new food!” Jonathan Fraser told TODAY.com.

Ento Box

Snap and share cricket crackers

The students were determined to prove that creepy crawlies could one day be sold at any major Western supermarket, as long as they were somehow presented in a manner that was less, well, creepy and crawly. So they teamed up with a culinary student at Le Cordon Bleu and attempted to find recipes to entice even the most squeamish eaters into eating bugs. The students tested a variety of flavors and ingredients. The only requirement? The food couldn’t look like bugs.

“We made a grasshopper pâté (grasshopper meat, combined with tofu and sesame); cricket bread (tomato puree, basil, and cricket flour); caterpillar mousse (moth caterpillar meat combined with whipped cream); and deep-fried grasshopper croquettes, among others,” Dasan told TODAY.com.

Ento Box

Honey Caterpillar croquettes, with rocket salad, soy sauce and salsa.

They called the final product Ento Box, a wordplay on the Japanese Bento box (a boxed takeout meal popular in Japan) and entomology (the study of insects). The students hope that the food will help challenge Westerners to start thinking outside the box in order to find sustainable food sources for the future.

Admirable in theory, of course, but if the recipes don’t taste good, the Ento Box will be received with, well, crickets. So what does bug pâté actually taste like?

“We were initially surprised to find that that insects are very subtly flavored; most have a nutty, savory taste,” according to Chung.

Dasan adds: “Pan-fried crickets were my other favorite, tasting a bit like sausage.”

Cricket-based sausage: possibly coming someday to a supermarket aisle near you. Would you try eating a bug-based dish if it looked appealing?

July 24, 2009: Crumbled meal worms. Sautéed crickets. Ant eggs. Hungry yet? Marc Dennis, founder of Insects Are Food, explains how eating these dishes could help the environment. Msnbc.com's Becca Field puts it to the test.

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