A kitchen where cockroaches are welcome

We like a challenge here at BUGSfeed. So this week we’re writing about a dish that contains two things many people hate: cockroaches and tapioca.

Now both of these ingredients have a bad reputation, it’s fair to say. Tapioca, for those of a certain age in the UK at least, took the form of a sort of grey, mealy sludge served in school canteens, and recently topped the list of ‘most hated school dinner’ in an online poll. Now though, tapioca’s making a trendy comeback, in common with lots of hated food which we no longer insist on boiling into a grey mush.

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Tapioca. Photo: Yoppy, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Then there’s cockroaches. As we’ve already described, cockroaches are… not popular. Loathed. Associated with infestations and disease, they are, in common with maggots, possibly one of the last things you want near your mouth. This is a western view, it has to be stressed. In China, for instance, cockroaches are prized for their medicinal properties, and you can see them being served ‘twice-fried’ in this video.

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Cockroach. Photo: Zoe Bowden, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Fit for human consumption?
Crucially, the cockroaches being cooked in that clip have been farmed specifically for human consumption. As with all edible insects, plucking them out of the garden (or in this case, from under your sink) could be dangerous. Household cockroaches carry bacteria that could make you ill, and you should also bear in mind the general warning that anyone with shellfish allergies should avoid edible insects, as they’re closely related. For more on safety and entomophagy, see our Are insects dangerous? section.

So it might intrigue you to see Rossano Linassi, a Brazilian professor of gastronomy, serving up cockroach-based tapioca snacks at the Latin American Congress of Entomology recently. 

Richard Levine, editor of this fascinating Entomology Today blog, took a quick video of Linassi cooking up this dish at the conference, including the reactions of the lucky few who got to eat it. 

Linassi uses tapioca not to make the gloupy pudding you might know, but the thin pancake that’s popular in Brazil, and smothers it with condensed milk and coconut. Apparently the sweetness ‘rounds out’ the nutty, crispy taste of the cockroaches. Food for thought!

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Cockroaches ready for cooking. Photo: Richard Levine

How-to: Sweet Cockroach Tapioca Crepes

  • Heat your frying pan to a high temperature.
  • Sprinkle about a cup of tapioca powder onto the hot pan. After a few seconds it’ll form a thin pancake or crepe – flip it over and remove before it burns!
  • Spread two teaspoons of condensed milk over half the pancake; sprinkle some shredded coconut over this.
  • Place some dried cockroaches straight onto the pancake, fold in half, and eat!

Video: Richard Levine, Entomology Today
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