The next trend in the restaurant industry may result in diners having to keep a close eye on their food just in case it tries to walk away. While recent food fads have encompassed crazes like food trucks, fancy cocktails and the art of mixology, and the rise of sous vide in professional kitchens, there’s a good chance the next big thing in dining may be something inspired by ancient eating habits.
And these meals may just try to run away.
While some out there may be thinking of restaurants where they have animals such as chickens on the grounds that you can pick, or seafood places with their tanks of live lobsters greeting patrons, this new trend is nothing like those concepts. This trend is more extreme than that to American sensibilities, but much more mundane to most of the world.
So what is this mysterious food trend with the potential to take over the country? Don’t bug out, but it’s the introduction of dishes made using edible insects. Yes, seriously.
Bugs have long been a part of the human diet, going back centuries. Not only is it an ancient tradition, it is estimated that 80% of the global population still regularly eat bugs as a normal part of their lifestyle to this day. While the idea is strange to people in the United States, an objective look at edible insects reveals that they are incredibly nutritious, packed with protein, and humans have perfected the art of getting surprisingly complex flavors out of them.
So while diners and chefs in the United States have spent decades ignoring the buggier part of a global diet, but that may be changing soon, and it may be changing quickly. Edible insects have made waves in a number of other countries similar to the US in recent years, as a creeping trend in Australia recently shows. Just this fall an insect dish was one of the most buzzed about items at a major European food fair and trade show, another sign that soon enough these bug bites will make their way stateside.
Edible insects making inroads overseas shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that pays attention. While America boasts some of the best chefs in the world, many of the most groundbreaking kitchen maestros reside outside the 50 states. Danish restaurant Noma, freshly reopened after closing a year ago, has been regarded as the world’s premier restaurant for years, being given the official designation as the world’s best multiple times. The Copenhagen culinary landmark has also made a habit of incorporating insects into their food, sometimes while they are still alive. This stamp of approval from the team behind the most coveted meals on earth has gone a long way towards the acceptance of edible bugs among foodies, something that may finally begin bleeding over to the mainstream.
For certain gourmands the idea of eating bugs is old hat, even in the United States. That is because grasshoppers have long been a part of a type of cuisine originating in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, and a number of restaurants located in America that specialize in that style of food feature a grasshopper dish on the menu, either as an entree filling for dishes like tacos, or by themselves as an appetizer.
However it is notable that a number of non-Oaxacan restaurants in the United States are starting to include bug-based dishes on their menus. These are restaurants with a variety of focuses, from hip street food joints to sushi places, in addition to a few Mexican-inspired eateries. Not only are these places open around the country, many of them are beloved by customers, boasting 4 stars or better on popular rating sites. One pest control company put together a graphic for them.
Edible bugs are creeping in to American food culture, and could be set to make a big leap that sees them become an accepted, if not embraced, part of mainstream food culture in the states. Whether at the restaurants that are out in front and leading the charge or at a bug-and-wine pairing event like those that are being held more and more regularly, it is becoming easier for Americans to get a taste of what the majority of the world considers a normal dining experience.
At this pace it may not be long until chowing down on crickets is considered a pretty ho-hum night out!