A brief off-telly aside.
A couple of days ago I went to Wahaca on the South Bank in London to try their ‘chapulines fundido’, after reading about it in the Guardian via a piece entitled ‘Should We Learn To Love Eating Insects?‘. There seems to be a minor media wave about insects-as-food, tonight on BBC4 there is a programme about that very subject – although this particular subject does pop up pretty frequently.
The £3.95 Wahaca dish is billed as a grand ‘experiment’ (rather than a huge publicity stunt). This is what they say about it:
From Monday 11th March, we’re launching a new experimental dish at our South Bank restaurant. Chapulines fundido is made with one of Mexico’s most sustainably farmed, yet unusual ingredients, grasshoppers.
We take fried chapulines and cook them with softened shallots, garlic and smoky chipotle chillies to create a delicious salsa, which is served with queso fundido, a mixture of gratinated mozzarella and cheddar cheese, perfect for scooping up with corn tortillas. Chapulines are considered a much sought after delicacy in Mexico… but as well as being a very tasty source of protein, from an environmental point of view, entomophagy (insect eating) is seen by many leading experts as the only logical answer to the critical pressure our growing population is putting on food supplies…. As grasshoppers aren’t currently farmed in the UK, for our first month long trial the only practical way to put them on the menu was to buy them from an accredited cooperative of farmers in Oaxaca, but our hope is that in the future if the dish proves popular we’ll be able to work to set up a supplier closer to home, making them even more sustainable.
We order it, and it comes. Unfortunately the cheese on top is too deep, thick and glutinous, and really overwhelms the grasshopper puree underneath – a disappointingly thin layer. It’s a shame because it’s great: earthy, rich, umami-y. The little fried ones on the top are nutty and savoury and more-ish. I could have eaten way more than five of them. But way too much cheese. WAAYY too much. It’s like some kind of fear absorber to soak up the scary new thing. But I, for one, welcome the new insect dawn. As long as they are all as delicious as this.