Bug Appetit! Insects as Ingredients

Standing in the kitchen of Vij's -- an Indian restaurant in Vancouver, British Columbia, that's been hailed as one of the finest in North America -- is an unusual and mouth-watering privilege.

At least it was, until some of the newest ingredients showed up.

One of those ingredients is crickets -- little eyeballs, legs and all -- especially yucky when you look at them really close up.

But not yucky to eat, according to Meeru Dhalwala, the restaurant's co-owner and chef. She says that not only do they taste good, they're good for the environment.

"Raising bugs for human consumption is environmentally much, much friendlier than raising cattle, raising chicken, raising pigs," she said, adding that the bugs aren't a replacement for meat, but a supplement.

"I'm not going to be up here and say, you know, that this cricket tastes better than the beef tenderloin that I serve," she said.

Her husband, Vij, the man with the name on the restaurant, says, "Bugs are in."

Health Benefits of Bugs

Nightline visited the restaurant when the crickets were on the menu for the first time. Vij Dhalwala says that diners just need time to get used to the idea.

"Mutton kabobs were the same way," he explained. "People were like, Oh, mutton, I've never eaten mutton. We were the first ones to do it. I don't do it for the fear factor, I do it for the taste factor."

Still…bugs? Why bugs?

"These crickets happen to be way, way higher in iron than beef, chicken, pork, anything," said Meeru. "Much higher in iron. Much higher in calcium. They've got a fantastic amount of protein in them. Super low-fat."

And she says they're not as weird as you might think -- no more strange than prawns, for instance -- which is why fancy restaurants around the world are buying into bugs.

I'll Have the Cricket Paranta

What do the crickets taste like?

"Like Chex cereal," Meeru said.

But they won't look like bugs when they hit the dinner table. After a swift ride in the blender, they're rolled up, mixed with spices, cooked a little more and served up as "cricket paranta."

The verdict from our taste test was an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

"You're getting the health and the taste," said Meeru.

But getting actual diners to try it -- people who waited in line for some of North America's finest Indian food -- well, that was a bit of a challenge.

When the dish was explained to her, one diner wanted some clarification about the crickets. "The things that move?" she asked.

When Vij confirmed, she said, "No, thank you."

Some other diners also declined to give the crickets a chance.

"Not for me," said one woman. "I think it's the thought of it more than the taste. Black bits. Smashed cricket, no."

To be fair, plenty of people did try it, and for the most part, actually enjoyed it. But in the world of big-time bug eating, crickets are for amateurs.

'Cultural Bias' Against Bugs

David Gordon, the author of such tasty reading treats as the "Eat-a-Bug Cookbook" and the "Complete Cockroach," specializes in the really big stuff, and he doesn't believe in disguising his bugs as normal food.

"I like to think of myself as the Martha Stewart of bug chefs," he said.

Gordon really likes eating bugs and cooked up an assortment of crickets, worms, grasshoppers, even scorpions for one wide-eyed group of children.

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