Noodles, crickets and mealworms: oh my.
Nope, ramen with deep-fried worms isn’t part of some elaborate April Fools’ joke. The dish really did arrive in Tokyo this past week. And based on the extraordinarily warm welcome it received, it just might be headed our way soon.
Of course, cricket and insect-eating is by no means abnormal. Countries from Ghana to Thailand to Mexico include insects as part of their cuisine, and people all over the world count bugs as a protein source. You can even find crickets on the menu at New York’s Black Ant restaurant (along with, yes, ants).
But even the most curious foodies among us might hesitate upon first hearing about this latest combination, which combines a traditional and ever-popular ramen dish with a plethora of insects.
The innovation came about thanks to Yuta Shinohara, owner of Tokyo restaurant Ramen Nagi and a proponent of insect-eating. Shinohara held a single-day event on Sunday at the restaurant to introduce the public to “insect tsukemen” noodles. (His last insect-eating event was a Valentine’s Day fete featuring a water bug cocktail, caramelized worms with almonds and cashews, and whipped cream that incorporated the internal fluids of Thai water bugs.)
The dish incorporates noodles, crickets and mealworms alongside soups, intended for dipping, flavored with silkworm powder, grasshoppers, or crickets—and every one of the 100 bowls created for the special day sold out.
“Through ramen, I’d like to spread how fun and delicious it is to eat insects,” Shinohara commented, according to the New York Post.
The full course cost 3,000 yen, which is about $27, and includes the insect ramen, a bowl of rice with crickets, spring rolls featuring fried worms, and, last but not least, ice cream flavored with insect powder. To order the ramen by itself, you’d only have to shell out 1,500 yen, or around $13.50.
We won’t be knocking this dish till we try it. After all, insects are lower in fat than many of our traditional protein sources, and they’re environmentally friendly, too: To raise a kilogram of crickets, you only need 0.045 percent as much water as you would to produce one kilogram of beef. It almost makes you wonder why Americans didn’t latch onto the insect-as-superfood trend earlier.