Japanese grasshoppers – a recipe

To follow up on Liana’s post describing the Japanese grasshoppers we had at our launch party, and the wines they paired with, I thought I’d take this opportunity to post a recipe passed down to me by a woman in rural Japan. This method is known as ‘tsukudani’ and is also used to cook silkworm (as well as many wild plants and seafoods), and I think it would work well with many other insects, especially Orthopterans (grasshoppers, locusts, katydids and crickets).

How to cook grasshoppers, Japanese-style

Ingredients:

  • Grasshoppers 300g
  • Soy sauce 2 tablespoons
  • Mirin 2 tablespoons
  • Sugar 2 teaspoons
    •  OR
    • Sake/dry sherry 2 tablespoons
    • Sugar 2 tablespoons

1. If the grasshoppers are alive, first throw them into boiling water (ideally boiled with a pinch of salt, raising the boiling temperature, to minimise grasshopper suffering) and simmer for a few minutes. Freshly caught grasshoppers should be kept alive for one day before doing this, to ensure their stomachs are emptied.

2. Drain the grasshoppers (which should now have turned pinkish) and wash in cold water. At this point some people remove the legs, though this is optional.

3. Return the grasshoppers to a saucepan with fresh water that just covers them, and bring to the boil once again. Simmer until the water is nearly completely reduced.

4. Add the soy sauce, mirin and sugar (or sake and sugar), Simmer for a further ~20minutes until the liquid is reduced. By now, the grasshoppers should be brown-black in colour and covered in a shiny film. Leave to cool. The soy and sugar will preserve them, and they can be kept for several weeks in the fridge.

These make great party food. Serve on a small plate as a snack, or on skewers (cocktail sticks work well), as they were once sold from street vendors in Tokyo.

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