The consumption of insects, or entomophagy, is not uncommon among locals in South-East Asia. And it is not uncommon to see tourists, torn between curiosity and disgust, stopping by stallholders who sell these bugs. Grasshoppers, cockroaches, spiders and 1,900 other species are considered as edible. But did you know that eating bugs could be the future of feeding?
Almost 2 billion people - or one in four globally - are already eating insects. They "provide high quality proteins and nutrients. They are particularly important as dietary supplements for kids who are underfed," according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). They also breed quickly and have a low impact on the environment, as the FAO notes: "pigs produce 10 to 100 times more greenhouse gas."
Insects became a staple for Cambodians during the Khmer Rouge period, as millions of people looked to stave off starvation. Today, from the tarantula’s alongside the road in Skun to the crickets that are a popular salty snack with beer, they are available in about every market and context. In Phnom Penh, the streets around the Royal Palace and Sisowath Quay thrive with merchants selling the tiny treats.
For a more upmarket look, Romdeng restaurant on Street 174 specialises in dishes featuring insects. The restaurant - which is run by Friends International and gives underprivileged children an opportunity to become top-class cooks - is a hit among tourists and should be the same for anyone living here. Try the friend grasshoppers with chilli and frog, or the tarantulas, with their crispy legs and crunchy body.
Apart from the fact that insects can be a substitute to mankind’s meat and fish consumption, they can also be farmed to feed cattle. Moreover, the FAO says that in least-developed countries, incomes can be greatly increased through the farming of insects and selling them as street food. The facts are starting to add up - and insects, it is becoming clear, are a most sustainable, and healthy, way of diversifying our diet on a global level. It should be noted, however, that proteins from insects can cause allergies, especially to those allergic to crustaceans and peanut. As for the taste, some talk about hazelnut tones, while others pick up hints of chicken or peanuts. It's different for all, and certainly worth a try.
Original text and photography by Hugo Bolorinos for Cambodge Mag. Read the original article here.