Bizarre Foods and the Bugs: I Watch Because I Can't Not Watch
- 2009-06-12 01:10:44<<< Previous - The Art of Post-It Notes | Next - Random Songs About Tea in the Ol' Search Engine... >>>
So we were watching Bizarre Foods
on the Travel Channel
tonight, and I think I've finally gotten over my desire to hide my eyes when the host, Andrew Zimmern
, eats bugs. And since hardly a show goes by when he doesn't eat a bug, this is a good thing.
Every now and then I berate myself over my lack of adventure in dining. For instance, every time we go to eat Mexican food (which we do often) I'll almost always have the carnitas
. Partly because I love carnitas, and partly because they're my standard of comparison for the quality of each restaurant's food. Oh I look at the fish tacos and the occasional octopus on the menu, and then I think "ah, but if it's not that good then I'll really
wish I'd ordered the carnitas." Since I
adore pork, even if the carnitas are bad they're at least tolerable - you have to really mess things up to make them completely inedible. But all I need to do is watch another episode of Bizarre Foods and suddenly all is right with the world - I'll let Zimmern eat all the weird things and happily go back to my non-exotic diet that I enjoy.
Tonight's episode was in Eastern Australia
- here're some still photos
One thing I have discovered - I can not watch an episode of this show without having access to Google. Because I simply must know more
about some of these foods. For instance here
Zimmern eats a unique dish using Balmain Bugs
. And so I had
to know more about these lobstery-looking things. They're not really what I consider to be bugs, but they certainly do look alien. These actually wouldn't be a dish I'd give a second thought to trying, but they are worth a second look.
Gold Coast Fisherman's COOP: Fresh Balmain Bugs
"Balmain Bugs are very high in demand and are available either cooked or green, and even sometimes sold live. With a similar taste and texture to crayfish, the sweet meat of the Balmain Bug is a sought after addition to any seafood lover's dinner plate. Make sure you check the Balmain Bug's availability on our blog."
Prepare Balmain bugs, Taste.com.au
"Affordable and delicious, Balmain or Moreton Bay bugs are easier to prepare than you might expect."
What's the Difference between Moreton Bay Bugs and Balmain Bugs?, Sea-Ex.com
"Moreton Bay bugs have their eyes set towards the edge of the head, while Balmain bugs have them set toward the middle of the head. The Moreton Bay bug is also a little thinner in the body than the Balmain bug. Females have a pore on the inside base of each third leg, males do not."
Balmain Bugs, Lie to tell tourists, Time Out Sydney.com
"Balmain Bugs are the only known airborne insect capable of swimming in the sea."
Balmain Bugs on Flickr: Here, here, here, and here
Aussie Tucker made easy, AussieCynic.com
This page has a mention of the bugs, as well as definitions of other Aussie foods you'll see on menus. (Also worth a laugh - The Unofficial Aussie Map.)
Actually it was somewhat disappointing how little I could Google up on the bug itself. I was hoping for some photos of them cavorting in the wild, but I guess people are more focused on grabbing them to use for dinner rather than giving them the nature documentary treatment.
Another item on the menu was Quandong
- "the name given to a number of Australian wild bush plants and their edible fruits."
Quandongs, Aboriginal Bush Tucker, Nullarbornet.com.au
"Traditionally the Quandong was an important food source for Australian Aborigines. Amongst male members of central Australia's Pitjantjara people, Quandongs were considered a suitable substitute for meat - especially when hunting game was in short supply. Around the Everard Ranges, Quandong gathering and food preparation was considered Pitjantjara women's business. Ripe red Quandong fruits would be eaten raw or dried for later use.
...Encased within each Quandong seed is an oil rich kernel which was also processed in a similar fashion to treat skin disorders. Quandong kernels could also be eaten and some tribal groups were known to employ crushed kernels as a form of "hair conditioning oil". Ingeniously Australia's aborigines appeared to be aware that Quandongs were a preferred food source of emus, and that a ready supply of Quandong seeds could be found in their droppings."
Of course Zimmern was not at all phased by the disgested Quandong kernels he was given to eat.
Quandong Fruit in the Outback, BenjaminChristie.com
"...the quandong is also called the native peach as it has a stone like seed with a subtle peach-apricot flavour. Locals in the Coffin Bay area use the wild fruits to make quandong pies or quandong jam at this time of the year."
Flickr image: Desert Quandong fruit
Something Zimmern ate that I'm afraid I would have to pass on - an appetizer of Bogon moths
. Apparently they taste something like popcorn and/or nuts - but honestly, I'd be happier with popcorn. Popcorn doesn't have legs or wings I'd want to pick off before eating.
Bogong Moths Fact Sheet, Csiro.au
"Each spring bogong moths migrate from lowland breeding grounds to the high country in southeast Australia where they spend the summer. ...In autumn they make the return journey. ...There are numerous reports of large groups of bogong moths causing inconvenience to humans."
The Bogong Moth, AustralianFauna.com
"There have been problems in cities that are on the flight path. It seems that since the moths fly at night each time they come upon a city the moths confuse the city lights with the sun rising and swarm the cities trying to find dark hiding places. Entire walls of buildings are covered in moths. Eventually they find their way to the Alpes where they spend the summer months huddled on walls and floors of caves. Many animals come to these caves during those months, as the aboriginals had done before, to feast. The moth's body is 60% fat and very nutritious."
Bogong nights in city's bright lights
Joel Christie, Daily Telegraph, October 05, 2007
"... the migrating bogong is also popular with birds and animals throughout the spring and summer.
"They're just packed full with fat," Australian Museum entomologist Dave Britton said."
Aussies urged to eat moths, Ananova.com
(Oddly no date on this story...)
"...The "munch a moth" campaign is being led by Jean-Paul Bruneteau, 51, a French-born chef, reports the Daily Telegraph.
He first began eating the brown bogong moths 11 years ago while researching a book on bush tucker eaten by Aborigines.
"They have a lovely popcorn flavour, like hazelnut," he said.
Mr Bruneteau, who has run "bush tucker" restaurants in Sydney and Paris, suggests pulling off the furry wings, then popping the moths in the oven for three minutes in a splash of canola oil.
Alternatively the chef, recommends putting them through a coffee blender and sprinkling them into an omelette, pancake or crepe."
Of course, there is the slight problem of pesticide use and the problem of those chemicals getting into bugs you're about to eat. So you'd be best off with farm raised moths.
Bogong moths: If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em
Reuters/News.OneMedia.in, September 25, 2000
"...The Sydney Olympics have been hit by an unlikely bug – giant moths called bogongs who have been drawn off their migration route by the glare stadium lights.
The insects, an Aboriginal delicacy which are quite harmless, have descended on Olympic Park in their millions. Spectators duck and swat. Athletes have to watch out for the dive-bombers.
So stadium lights are being dimmed every night after the last event in the hope they might fly away.
But Kersh says this surprise harvest should not be wasted. "I could have bring-in and takeaway. We could put them in an omelette or maybe caramelised in a tartlet.""
Chuck another bogong on the barbie … or in your sarnie
Richard Macey, Sydney Morning Herald, October 5, 2007
"...don't pig out on too many, warned Martyn Robinson, the naturalist at the Australian Museum, who said studies had found the moths were high in arsenic from farm pesticides.
"I was eating them right up until I heard that," Mr Robinson said. "I'd catch them off the windowsill, hold them by the wings, and pop them straight into my mouth. It's like eating a prawn cocktail."
...According to one study, 100 grams of bogong moth abdomen has three times the fat, and almost twice the kilojoules, of a similar portion of a Big Mac."
On this episode Zimmern also ate some vegemite
- but after the bugs and moths this wasn't too interesting. I've tried the stuff myself ages ago and found it nasty - but he presented it served with tomato or cream cheese, and that might be much tastier. Still, I'm not rushing out to buy a jar. That can wait til I eventually make the trek to Australia, and that's way down on the long, long list of "Vacation Here Someday."
The main problem with eating the way Zimmern does when on vacation? Getting sick that far away from home. Because you'd have to have a cast iron stomach to not get sick at least a few times after eating such exotic stuff. Or I would anyway, but then I've been brought up on peanut butter and hamburgers. Although there was that one time when, as a child, a friend convinced me to try a dirt and grass mudpie she'd made. Maybe that's where all my pickiness started - if the thing had actually tasted good I might have gone on to try bugs, and who knows what else...
To add your comment, click here