Jack: New contributor Tris weighs in on food pop up/start up Grub. Grub have a simple and excellent USP – almost everything on the menu contains insects. And you get/have to eat all of them (oh yes)
That, pretty much sells itself so I’ll shut up now and let you read Tris’ words
Note: This is not yet a permanent restaurant, though Grub are talking about turning it into a pop up and you can buy stuff from them online. FYI 😀
Also make ready for ‘anthropodic food porn’ (or my attempt at it). You saw it here first, folks…
Shami And The Insect Factory
This Tuesday night Jack and I had the pleasure of attending what could possibly be described as nothing less than a culinary revolution…
Inspired by traditional Thai dishes, the complexity of fresh and exotic flavours was astounding….
What’s so revolutionary about this you ask? Six out of the seven dishes contained insects. Founders Shami Radia and Neil Whippey have worked tirelessly for the last two years to bring you the amazing dishes we experienced on the night.
Shami, having travelled around the world as part of his work with Water Aid, was inspired when visiting Malawi in East Africa. He witnessed the excitement of the local community as they caught and roasted the flying termites who make an appearance at the beginning of the region’s rainy season.
Neil’s advocacy for the use of insects as food is somewhat more pragmatic. At 19, Neil was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, a digestive condition that requires a very specific diet. Because of the abundant protein and nutrients found in insects, and without the presence of complex fats – he found that this insects were a healthy and ‘Crohns friendly’ way to get some quality nutrition in. He believes this has the potential to be the answer for Crohn’s sufferers around the world.
The evening was kicked off with a warm welcome from Shami and Neil and the introduction of the addictive Soy Fried Crickets.
A bar snack which had a striking similarity to that of pork scratchings [Ed: or fried shrimp]. Flavoured and served with a Pandanas Leaf, the flavours are wonderfully subtle and could easily replace the presence of the mundane peanut on any bar top.
But the food wasn’t limited to bar snacks…
Round two was a brilliantly spicy, Sesame Tempura Grasshopper With Vegetables. The batter, made with Chang Beer, (who were sponsoring the event – thankyou Chang!), was everything you could hope for in a great tempura. Served with Grub’s own sweet chilli sauce it was a classic combination of flavours in a form we’ve never seen before.
In fact, the sweet chilli was so good; I piled some of the aforementioned crickets into the remaining sauce.
The third dish to emerge was the wonderfully aromatic Sticky Crickets, served with fresh cucumber and sticky rice [Ed: feels].
A powerful and sweet anis flavour balanced by the cool, clean cucumber and the rice which was perfectly cooked with an amazing texture that contrasted well with the soft crunch of the sweet crickets. This is very much a dish in progress however. Jack and I both felt it was way too sweet, as did Shami. Not being the biggest fan of star anis, the dish could have done with less of such a strong spice, as they were left in whole! I found this out the hard way.
Next came the classic Thai Miang, toasted coconut, peanuts, lime, ginger, chilli, pomelo and Thai shallots. Grub then added buffalo worms and gave it to you to eat whole, wrapped in a fresh betel leaf. A flavour bomb if ever there was one [Ed: literally, you could see people reeling in that similar satisfied way that mustard appreciators do when they’ve taken a ‘wasabi hit’…]. It was very popular with those who’d attended the launch. ..
Then came the Mealworm Rice Cakes. This was fried jasmine rice cakes, made with red curry and crispy Thai shallots – served with fresh mint and coriander leaves in a smoky lime juice and fish sauce dressing, topped off with roasted rice. The curry gave a powerful kick that was matched by the other big flavours. What was startling was that, despite all the individual ingredients having such bold flavours, when eaten together, the dish is cool, tangy and amazingly fragrant without being at all overpowering.
We now arrive at both mine and Jack’s personal favourite; the Crispy Citrus Insect Noodles. Fried vermicelli noodles served up with fiery chilli, beansprouts, Chinese chives, pickled garlic and Kafir Lime Leaf. All topped with a wonderful yellow bean, buffalo worm, mandarin and lime dressing that creates a dish to tempt even the pickiest of eaters (Ed: just don’t tell them about the insects until they’ve eaten it). The balance of flavours was amazing.
Instead of the ingredients coming together to make something altogether indecipherable like a large cathedral choir, each individual ingredient can be heard perfectly, like an opera quartet. Even the humble beansprouts put their two cents in. A fantastic dish, beautifully executed with a small slice of orange on the side to squeeze over the salad…
The evening was finished off by an introduction to Caramel Chimp Sticks, proving that insects are versatile enough to be used as a starter, main, and dessert. Palm sugar and tamarind caramel with crickets and buffalo worms, served on a chopstick with mint, lemongrass, peanuts, kafir lime leaves and toasted coconut.
This brilliant little confection has all the textures you could ever want in a dessert. To top it all off, we noticed that the caramel had a slight salty note, like our traditional salted caramel. It turns out that this is thanks to the hint of fish sauce used in the chimp stick caramel.
Seriously, this is food, outside of the box.
This was, without a doubt, some of the best food I’ve ever had.
Insects, as a food source is the future. They are more nutritious than traditional protein sources (mealworms are 50% protein) they’re more sustainable, kinder to the environment, taste amazing, are incredibly versatile and as demand increases, they will become an extremely cost effective food source.
Fitness people should be watching this revolution very closely. Shami and Neil have created a food with an environmentally conscious principle and the incredible tastes and flavours to back it up. Absolute food heroes.
Ed: Now if we can only get people to try it…