Do you like ramen (ラーメン)? How about ramen topped with deep-fried worms and crickets? It may sound a bit disgusting but it’s actually an enjoyable dish for those with a unique appetite. There are many countries around the globe where insects are eaten, including China, Thailand, Africa, Mexico and Australia. To incorporate this into the Japanese food culture, Ramen Nagi (ラーメン凪) restaurant held an event in April 2017 to let Japanese foodies have a taste of “insect tsukemen (虫つけ麺)” noodles. Think it wouldn’t be popular? It actually sold out!
Eating insects is not that new in Japan but it is also not that popular. Surprisingly, eating insects also ends up more expensive than eating meat or fish. Most commonly experimented with by adventurous eaters, one of the most popular traditional insects to eat in Japanese dishes is “hachinoko (蜂の子)”, boiled bee larvae. This has a distinct flavor and is often paired with crackers. They are described as tasting sweet, starchy, rich and smoky. At first glance, hachinoko aren’t particularly appetizing but they taste a lot better than they look. They are also believed to be a good source of nutrition.
There have been countless insect-eating events held in Japan that always bring a buzz to the room. People are often excited photographing the insects before actually tasting them. While the descriptions may sound scary, just remember that the insects aren’t poisonous and maybe there is a reason that these dishes often turn out to be more popular than ordinary ones.
— スペトリ (@space_trimmer) April 9, 2017
On April 12 2017, Ramen Nagi restaurant in Tokyo held an insect-eating event. The special event was organized by Yuta Shinohara (篠原祐太), the restaurant’s owner who has been known to set up similar insect-eating events around the city. He has always dreamed of popularizing the culture of eating insects in Japan as he, himself, has been eating insects from a young age.
The event at Ramen Nagi lasted for one day with a total of 100 bowls of insect tsukemen noodles being consumed within just four hours. The main dish consisted mainly of crickets and mealworms which participants freely dipped in insect-flavored soup. The deep-fried insects were very crispy and the taste could be compared to fried shrimp. Participants were given the choice of three flavors: grasshopper, cricket or silkworm.
A bowl of insect tsukemen was priced at 1,500 yen and a set meal cost 3,000 yen, which was served up with an additional bowl of cricket-topped rice, insect-flavored ice cream and spring rolls containing fried worms. Ordinarily speaking, this is expensive compared to a usual ramen dish but was certainly worth a try!
Try catching other insect-eating events in the country, particularly those organized by Shinohara. I think this is definitely the next generation of ramen and will become a big hit in the future. These events attract long queues so be prepared to wait. If you’re up for a fun and adventurous way of satisfying your appetite, then an insect-topped meal is for you!
There are many branches of Ramen Nagi, but we will introduce one of them here.
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