“It tasted like a burnt potato chip,” she recalls. “It wasn’t love at first bite, I’ll say that much.”
Fast forward eight years and Martin has downed hornet larva in Japan, launched a bug-cooking show and authored Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects. In her spare time, she enjoys whipping up hakuna frittata, made with mushroom, egg and moth larvae; spider rolls made of tempura-fried tarantula with cucumber and avocado and bee-LTs, made with the usual ingredients, plus sautéed bee larvae. Looking to add a few bugs to your dinner plate, here are seven places to dine on insect-based cuisine.
Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium – New Orleans
Be prepared for some creative snacks at the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. We’re talking chocolate-chirp cookies; crispy Cajun crickets; mango and apple chutney with wax worms; six-legged salsa and cinnamon-bug crunch. On a busy week, the Insectarium goes through 10,000 bugs, believe it or not. You can place an order for a bugalicious meal any time of the year, but if you go in November, there’s a special annual Hoppy Thanksgiving event with festive dishes like turkey with cornbread and mealworm stuffing, wax worm cranberry sauce and cricket-pumpkin pie.
Linger – Denver
Linger, a trendy restaurant in Denver’s Lower Highlands neighborhood, sources its insects from the Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch, Colorado’s first and only edible insect farm, which raises insects for wholesale to restaurants and food manufacturers. Chow down on the Asian-inspired, gluten-free Thai Sausage Mi Krop, which is made up of spiced pork, black ants, crickets, crispy-rice noodles, turmeric, red chili and tomato nuoc cham. Want some insect-based snacks for later? The Micro Ranch has chirpy jerky and roasted crickets which you can order online.
Xochi – Houston
For an extra punch of protein, order the queso del rancho at Xochi, a Houston-based restaurant that celebrates the flavors of Oaxaca, Mexico. It's a lovely concoction of house-made queso de cincho, chicharrones and a trio of insects: gusanos (an insect larvae, chicatanas (ants) and chapulines (grasshoppers) and huaxmole rojo, a dish made of guaje seeds, which have a pumpkin-seed flavor, garlic, avocado and okra. Or opt for the bistec con mole de chicatana, which is grilled prime Angus ribeye, black bean tamal and ant mole.
Playa Viva – Juluchuca, Mexico
Guests at Play Viva, an upscale resort in Mexico, get to tour the 200 acres behind the resort with a permaculture manager. First, you’ll walk through a series of ecosystems lined with ancient tamarind trees and cacti. Then stroll through a bamboo forest and past giant Ceiba trees. Along the way, you'll munch on termites as you learn about the insects' role on the landscape and how their nests are turned into fertilizer.
Don Bugito – San Francisco
Granola bites made with cricket powder, anyone? How about dark-chocolate-covered crickets with amaranth seeds. Or coconut toffee-brittle bugitos. For Monica Martinez, owner of San Francisco–based Don Bugito, serving up snacks made of insects is a no-brainer. After all, where she grew up in Mexico City, people have been feasting on buggy cuisine since the Aztec Empire. Her delicious snacks are sold online, and she hosts a few events each year where she serves things like chinicuil corn custard, made of agave worm and corn custard with a spicy tomato broth. There's also ahuautle tortitas, made of petite emotes, lake fly egg tortitas with a spicy poblano pepper sauce and amaranth cake topped with toffee mealworms and dark chocolate mandarin wedges.
Madre – Torrance and Culver City, California
Madre, a popular Oaxacan restaurant known for its traditional Oaxacan meals, has chapulines on the menu. Nosh on the tasty bug as an appetizer or as your main course in the form of a corn tortilla, costra de quesillo, fresh guacamole, chapulines and salsa on the side.
Salt & Straw – Portland, Oregon
Salt & Straw, a small-batch, Portland-based ice cream company with 20 locations along the West Coast, offers a creepy crawly critters ice-cream flavor with insects each October. Head ice-cream maker Tyler Malek spikes matcha ice cream with zesty orange and dark-chocolate-covered crickets and coconut toffee brittle mealworms. Crunch, crunch!
You might also like: Feast on global delicacies at these NYC restaurants