Mashed's favorite foodies, Scott and Brian Wilson, are always down for an adventure. In one of their more recent videos, the Mashed Bros ate 30 state fair foods in just 10 hours! (A challenge not for the weak of stomach.) However, their newest mission was even harder to swallow. They sat down with open minds and empty stomachs to try 12 different bugs: rhino beetles, sago worms, grasshoppers, black ants, house crickets, June beetles, bamboo worms, earthworm jerky, mole crickets, stink bugs, superworms, and scorpions -- a long list with a whole lot of legs.
Those unaccustomed to eating bugs may have their doubts, but people have been eating insects for centuries. In Thailand, bamboo worms are fried and tossed in seasoning for a street food snack; In Mexico, chapulines -- or fried grasshoppers -- are seasoned with lime and chile and used as a crunchy garnish on foods like tacos; In Korea, boiled and steamed silkworm pupae is eaten as a street food or bar snack, either on its own or in a tasty soup.
Increasingly, people in the U.S. are warming to the idea of adding insects to their diet, and some see the trend as a great option for those looking to try a meat-free diet or even as a possible solution to world hunger. Bugs pack in protein and nutrients, and they're readily available and sustainable. For these reasons, eating bugs and insects might become much more common on a global scale in the near future.
Bugs Offer A Unique, But Similar, Flavor
From crawling to flying to tunnel-digging bugs, brothers Brian and Scott tried a wide variety of insects and then shared their thoughts in a Q&A with Mashed. Most of their spread was made up of bugs with exoskeletons (arthropods), the only exception being worms (which often fit into the annelid group). The exoskeleton's texture was relatably described by Scott as "a popcorn kernel husk" and the flavor, "pretty earthy. Like ... violently earthy!!! Like eating dirt." This should come as no surprise, given that bugs spend most of their lives nestled amongst plants and decomposing earth.
When asked if there was anything that distinguished the flavors of beetles and worms, Brian replied, "They all kinda had the same dusty, earthy profile. It was similar to the chicken sandwich video," (referring to the Mashed Bros' ultimate chicken sandwich ranking, where the duo ate 21 sandwiches in one day), "in that it was a mental challenge of doing the same thing over and over." It's always difficult trying to eat the same thing repeatedly, whether it's a chicken sandwich or a crispy house cricket. There's only so much room for variability, and the bugs had many commonalities regardless of whether they fit into the beetle or worm category.
Are Seasoned Bugs Better?
The Mashed Bros were also treated to a few seasoned bugs. Their earthworm jerky was marinated in a punchy chili sauce, yet this flavor only went so far to mask the earthworm: "The cajun flavor was a nice change. But it was short-lived ... the worm took over," explained Scott. Even salt, that reliable flavor enhancer, didn't live up to its recipe-saving reputation. The June beetles they tried were the salty snack variety, but it ended up not being much of an improvement. In Brian's opinion, "Nothing was helping the June beetles." As far as the giant rhino beetles went, Scott described them as pretzel-like. Naturally, Mashed was curious if this meant it could have benefited from a pinch of salt (who doesn't love a salted pretzel?), but Scott replied, "Ah ... no. I'm not sure why that company bothered putting salt on anything."
The overall consensus was that the chocolate-covered house crickets were tolerable, though not necessarily good. (Of course, almost any food is better coated in chocolate, so it's no surprise crickets are not the exception.) The main benefit of the sweet coating was that it introduced a new flavor. Brian called crickets "The only [bug] that had an edible flavor" (that flavor being from the chocolate, not cricket), while Scott said "The crickets inside the chocolate had almost no flavor. They just added a bit of crunch."
Scorpions And Stink Bugs Were Approached With Trepidation
Scorpions and stink bugs are naturally two insects most people don't want to encounter in their everyday lives — one of them stings and the other, well, stinks. Fortunately, these defense mechanisms don't carry on to the bugs' culinary afterlife. In China, you can buy fried scorpions on a stick, while stink bugs are considered a nutritious delicacy across southern and Central Africa. However, these bugs are still intimidating to those with preconceived notions about the flavor or danger, and the Mashed Bros were understandably a tad skeptical.
Their scorpion-eating experience luckily turned out to be, in their words, "uneventful." Though eating a venomous bug was still a little scary: "It did feel like you were breaking the rules of life, you know?" Scott explained. Similarly, Brian called the experience "A little terrifying. The pointer in particular."
As for the stink bug, the flavor was nowhere close to its infamously off-putting smell, which stink bugs release to ward off predators. Seeing as it was a bit late for protection, Brian and Scott confirmed that the smell didn't exist post-roasting. Scott explained, "I was expecting rotten cilantro ... but they were much more similar to some of the other bugs we tried than I thought they were gonna be."
Mashed Bro's Favorites And Least Favorites
Despite the many similarities of the insects, The Mashed Bros were able to provide rankings of their flavors. The "easiest ones," according to Scott, "were the crickets or the ones I called fried onions," which was the bamboo worm. His definitive least favorite was the black ants: "Something about the ants ... It didn't help that I ate a whole spoonful." Brian appreciated the chocolate-covering on the crickets, so his ranking goes "that one first, then every food I've ever had, then the other bugs."
Scott and Brian told Mashed they couldn't think of any situation where they would choose to eat these bugs again. That said, if they had to eat a bug that they didn't try in this adventure, Scott's pick would be "a giant water bug" or "a huge walking stick." Brian, on the other hand, would choose "whichever one is dipped in chocolate."
Should you want to experiment with eating insects, there are many ways you can start cooking with them. An easy option is incorporating an ingredient like cricket flour into your recipes, which will give your foods a boost of protein while being fairly unnoticeable as far as flavor and texture is concerned. Eating insects is sustainable, nutritious, and good for the planet. It's a common practice in many parts of the world, and perhaps one day soon it will be in the U.S. as well.
Mashed and The Daily Meal are both owned by Static Media.
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