Crunchy bite: Foodies line up for insect-topped ramen in Tokyo

The ‘insect tsukemen’ ramen topped with fried worms and crickets. Source: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

CURIOUS Japanese foodies queued outside a Tokyo restaurant for a taste of a rare dish – ramen garnished with deep-fried worms and crickets.

Within about four hours, the Ramen Nagi restaurant had sold out the 100 bowls of “insect tsukemen” noodles it had prepared for Sunday’s single-day event.

The noodles were topped with about a dozen small crickets and mealworms, which customers then dipped into soups flavored with crickets, grasshoppers, or silkworm powder.

“It’s deep-fried, so it’s really crispy, and it doesn’t have a bad taste,” said student Anri Nakatani, 22. “It’s almost like deep-fried shrimp.”

The event was organized by the restaurant owner, and Yuta Shinohara, a 22-year-old who had set up insect-eating events in Tokyo, including a Valentine’s Day celebration that served chocolates, cakes and cocktails featuring insects.

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Shinohara, who started eating bugs as a child, wants to promote the alternative food culture in Japan and around the world, through ramen, a popular Japanese food.

“Through ramen, I’d like to spread how fun and delicious it is to eat insects,” he said.

The full course, costing JPY3,000 (US$27), consisted of insect ramen, a bowl of rice with crickets, spring rolls with fried worms, and ice cream flavored with insect powder. The ramen alone cost JPY1,500 (US$13.50).

Insects are eaten in many countries, such as China, Ghana, Mexico and Thailand. Australia’s indigenous groups have eaten insects for protein for generations. Bugs are even part of traditional Japanese cuisine in rural areas, but few city dwellers have had the opportunity to try them.

California tourist Steve Lee enjoyed the dish, but said it would take time to catch on in the United States.

“Ramen is just taking off now in a big wave in California so … maybe ten years, five years later?” – Reuters