Edible insects are touted as the ‘future’ of food, and we’re by no means the first to consider how they might pair well with wine as part of Western cuisine.
But: If 2 billion people enjoy insects as part of their daily diet, what ‘wine’ do they drink with them? (Since not all cultures make alcoholic drinks from grapes – the definition of wine, at least in the EU – we are taking an expansive view here, and considering any alcoholic beverage.
Much like edible insects, a diverse range of fermented drinks are commonly consumed worldwide. Here are the first five of our top ten* traditional insect and wine pairings from around the world:
(*Normally top tens are in order of taste. But we can’t decide on our favourite, let alone rank all 10! What do you think? Do you have a favourite?)
1. Mezcal and chapulines (Mexico)
Chapulines (grasshoppers) are usually cooked with salt, chilli and lemon. They’ve got a really unique taste, and go well with smoky mezcal, which is fermented from agave plants. (click here to read about how mezcal is made, and here to read about a couple of other Mexican insects enjoyed with mezcal)
2. Goto-mushi and warm shochu (Japan)
Goto-mushi are the larvae of the long-horned beetle. They’re found in winter, and are delicious roasted over an open fire and accompanied with a warm shot of shochu, a spirit distilled from fermented grain or potatoes, but usually with a much lower ABV (alcohol by volume) than vodka.
These larvae are also the favourite edible insect of insect cuisine expert Shoichi Uchiyama, who says ‘they’ve got a deep flavor and are creamy, like ‘toro’ cuts from tuna‘.
3. Palm grubs and palm wine (West and Central Africa)
Palm grubs are found inside the rotting trunks of fallen palms; palm wine is tapped from living palms. The wine is sweetest when it’s freshly tapped, and compliments the grubs, which can be roasted, smoked or stewed with spices. (Click here to read more about palm wine, and here to read about some other insects that are traditionally enjoyed with it in the Democratic Republic of Congo)
4. Fried crickets and smoked rice wine (Northeast India)
5. Shea caterpillars and sugar cane spirit (West and Central Africa)
Sugar plantations and shea-maize agroforestry fields are common in western Africa. Cane sugar is fermented and distilled to make a potent spirit, while the caterpillars that feed on the shea trees are collected and cooked with chilli and soumbala. The savoury caterpillars are a perfect match for the sweet spirit. The flavours are strong, and this is not a pairing for the fainthearted… (Click here to read about how these caterpillars are collected, and here for a recipe.)
Part 2 is on its way (and see our acknowledgments below for some clues to its content). But in the meantime – What about you? Have you come across a great insect and wine pairing that’s not mentioned here? Tell us about it!
With thanks to: Gabe Mott from Aspire FG for guiding me to pairing number 1, Gobar and Kushihara Agroforestry for introducing me to pairing number 2, @Bug_tasting_bot for the beautiful photo of pairing number 2, Ndopo for taking me through Congolese villages where pairing number 3 could be found, Antoinette and Bertine for preparing pairing number 5 countless times, (spoiler alert for pairings 6-10…) Kenichi Nonaka for introducing me to pairing number 7, Tetsuo Nakagaki for introducing me to the joys of pairing number 8, Roberto Flore for telling me about pairing number 9, Glen Courtright for letting me taste the insect part of pairing number 10, and Catherine and Lori from Simbi for pairings 4 and 6, as well as everyone else who’s given me delicious insects and wine over the past few years!