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A fly on the wall at Grub pop-up

picture of Karen Moss

Mealworms, grasshoppers and crickets - some say that's the three-course meal of the future, others say it's a marketing gimmick. Always keen to try anything – once – our online editor Karen Moss went off in search of edible insects at the Grub pop-up in Shoreditch.

With a growing population and food prices sky-rocketing, many people believe we will be eating very differently in 20 years' time, and that creepy-crawlies could become commonplace on menus across the western world. I'm perfectly happy with the logic of that statement but the reality of consuming insects is very different. First of all, well, they look like insects - you can see the thorax and the little legs and the antennae and the eyes get the idea. It's more than a little off-putting.

But then you pop a soy roasted cricket into your mouth and realise - hey, this tastes just like a pork scratching. Not bad at all, especially if, like me, you love a salty bar snack with your beer.

Our seven course menu consisted of Thai dishes with a twist, like Chang beer tempura grasshoppers with sweet chilli dipping sauce (homemade and fiery) and soy-roasted cricket miang wrapped in betel leaf (seriously tasty). Most of it I enjoyed, however one dish - the sticky crickets - had far too much star anise. I felt like I had just taken part in a shots-off with the world Sambuca drinking champion. Which some people might enjoy, I'm more of a Franjelico girl myself.

picture of edible insects

Eating insects is definitely helped by the strength of flavours in Thai food. The chilli, coriander, shallot and lime in the spicy mealworm rice-cakes were fragrant and delicious and for a moment I wasn't thinking about what I was eating, I was just enjoying eating it. It wasn't a million miles away from eating a prawn rice-cake.

Grub, the company specialising in edible insects who organised this shindig, are hoping to kickstart a craze for crunching creepy-crawlies, pointing to insects as a great source of protein. Interestingly a number of vegetarians have contacted Grub founders Shami Radia and Neil Whippey to make bookings for their East End pop-up. “Many vegetarians are happy to eat insects as a source of protein,” said Shami. “And farming insects doesn't impact the planet and environment the way that farming cattle does.”

According to the Grub guys around two billion people already partake of entomophagy (insect eating) in 80 per cent of countries worldwide. In his marketing work with international charities, Shami visited Malawi, where he saw a whole community roasting and eating flying termites at the beginning of the rainy season. “Eating insects is such a prevalent and normal part of peoples' diets in Africa and Asia,” he said. “It is just in the west that eating insects seems strange. People think that our pop-up is a marketing gimmick but, hey, let them think that. We want to get people taking about it and I believe that once diners get over the initial apprehension they will see the benefits of eating insects - for their health and for the environment but also for their taste buds.”

picture of Grub

Neil’s interest in exploring new foods started at the age of 19 when he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, which meant he needed to adhere to a selective, enriched diet. “Edible insects are potentially brilliant news for sufferers, thanks to the abundance of nutrients they contain, coupled with their low levels of complex fats,” he said.

The partners currently source the edible insects from farms in Holland, but Shami says the end goal is to one day open an insect farm in the UK. It may take some time to get government approval for such a scheme, but so far Grub hasn't encountered any problems with obtaining permission to serve insects to customers. “Anything after '97 has to be assessed as a novelty food item - but because insects have been eaten around the world for so long, the FSA basically just let us get on with it,” Shami explained.

As well as hosting insect food events, Grub also sell insects online and continually develop new insect recipes. Their pop-up, sponsored by Chang Thai beer, opened its alternative eating experience at Monikers, Hoxton Square on 4 March and the event continues through this weekend. For £36.50 you get seven courses and a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. For more information or to book tickets click here.

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