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How to Incorporate Cockroaches, Worms and Scorpions into Your Diet

By Heather Holland | March 17, 2015 11:10am | Updated on March 17, 2015 6:56pm

NEW YORK CITY — This menu is not for the squeamish.

Baked cockroaches, deep-fried tarantulas and wine-marinated scorpions are just some of the ways to incorporate crunch and protein into your next meal, according to bug chef David Gordon.

In a city that’s crawling with insects, these prolific but delectable critters have gotten a bad rap, said Gordon, who’s urging New Yorkers to give them a second chance.

“People all around the world have different attitudes about bugs,” Gordon said.

“New Yorkers see bugs at their worst. They’re seeing bed bugs, mosquitos and flies. They’re not seeing dragonflies or butterflies. So when you present them with bugs, they say, 'Why would I eat that?'”

For more than a decade, Gordon has traveled the country serving up bug dishes like grasshopper kabobs and wax worm quesadillas for events including Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, the Conan O’Brien Show and for the San Diego Zoo.

On March 21, he’ll be serving up hundreds of bug dishes for The Explorers Club’s annual dinner at the Museum of Natural History. The menu will include 500 American cockroaches — which he will marinate in lemon juice, roast and serve on top of endives with goat cheese, shaved fennel and chopped hazelnuts, Gordon said.

His goal is to not only get people comfortable with eating bugs, but ultimately convince them to permanently incorporate them into their diets, he said.

“I don’t just see it as a great way to get attention or freak people out — although that’s fun,” Gordon said. “I see it as beneficial. There are a lot of compelling environmental reasons."

Gordon, who's written a bug recipe book called "Eat-A-Bug Cookbook," shared with DNAinfo New York a few tips on how to prepare bugs and where to find safe ones to eat in New York City.

Choose the bug for you:

The best place to source your bugs is the local pet store, where they sell crickets, tarantulas and wax worms, most of which are used as live feed for lizards and turtles. They’ve been raised to high hygienic standards and typically they’re organic too, Gordon said.

“People spend hundreds of dollars on their iguanas and they’re not going to feed them something that’s not safe,” he said.

Whether you harvest them from your backyard, a pet store or online, it’s crucial that they are cooked before they’re eaten to kill any bacteria or parasites. If they’re not organic, there’s always a risk of ingesting pesticides.

Also, avoid brightly colored bugs, as they may be poisonous, Gordon said.

Gordon sources his cockroaches from a laboratory in the University of California Riverside and pays $250 for 500-600 bugs. 

"They're laboratory bred, they're not crawling out of the back of a restaurant," Gordon said.

How do they taste?

Crickets: crunchy with a nutty flavor

Wax worm: rich with a slightly sweet, almond flavor.

Cockroaches: Smoky flavor, hard shell and soft inside.

Tarantula: crunchy exo-skeleton, with tender meat that tastes like seafood, such as crab meat.

Scorpion: crunchy shell, and tender inside that tastes like seafood.

How to Cook Them:

Crickets:

1. You can buy them live and bagged from a pet store. Put the whole bag in the freezer (“which is the humane way of dispatching them,” Gordon said) for a half-hour.

2. Put them in a colander and rinse them.

3. Spread them out on a cookie sheet and bake at 250 degrees for about 20 minutes or until crispy.

4. Toss them into a stir-fry, or grind the baked crickets in a food processor into fine powder and incorporate it into flour for bread dough. Also, good to mix them whole into chex mix.

Wax Worms:

1. Repeat above steps 1-3.

2. Sprinkle them in cookie dough with white chocolate chips. (If you did a blind taste test, you'd think they were nuts," Gordon said).

Cockroaches:

1. Because of the way they recycle nitrogen, cockroaches naturally have a chemical flavor, so marinate them in lemon juice before baking them.

2. Repeat steps 1-3, and toss them into a salad.

Tarantulas:

1. Repeat steps 1-2.

2. Dip them in a buttermilk batter and deep fry.

Scorpions:

1. They come dried in various groceries in Chinatown.

2. Marinate them in a wine or soak them in water to rehydrate them.

3. Cook them in a frying pan with a little butter.

Dine out:

The Black Ant, 60 Second Ave.

Serves: Guacamole with black ant salt, chipotle, garbanzo beans, cilantro and quesillo ($12). Chapulines en su tierra made with grasshopper hash, queso fresco, pasilla salsa, guacamole, grilled corn and huitlacoche ($13).

Qi Esarn Thai Kitchen, 31 W. 14th St.

Serves: Dug-darr Gub Thuggatan Tohd, a side dish, made with fried silkworms and grasshoppers seasoned with soy and pepper.