They are the gateway bug into the intoxicatingly crunchy world of insect eating.
After lying dormant for nearly 20 years, the cacophonous Brood X cicadas have finally emerged on the East Coast.
But this time around, the most adventurous among us won’t be satisfied merely hearing the deafening critters — some are preparing to cook these trending buggers up like a terrestrial crawfish boil.
“You wanna eat the females, because they’re full of eggs,” Gene Kritsky, author of “Periodical Cicadas: The Brood X Edition,” told The Post. Ditching the tired just-like-chicken comparison, he analogized their flavor to something more like “cold asparagus.”
Now, a small but hungry crowd of intrepid epicures are headed toward the forests of the East Coast and Midwest, generating an intriguing buzz both online and in the flesh for the maligned pastime of bug-eating. We, too, decided to put our tastebuds to the test and sample these cyclical delicacies for ourselves. Hakuna matata, right?
The Post’s cicada cuisine fixer was Joseph Yoon, private chef and founder of Brooklyn Bugs, an edible insect advocacy group that touts bugs “as a sustainable source of protein.” The die-hard entomophagist — yes, there’s a word for “bug eater” — has been accompanying researchers on cicada foraging excursions in New Jersey with the goal of harvesting “hundreds of thousands of samples” for the pot, he told The Post.
“We’re gonna be creating dishes and ideas around cicadas that have never been seen before,” said Yoon, who charges upwards of $750 for his private non-cicada meals. He’s currently looking into holding events for the public surrounding the bugs.
But the gourmand graciously agreed to hold his inaugural Brood X banquet at my apartment in Brooklyn, where he treated us to a customized eight-course periodical cicada sampler.
As it was early in the cicada season at the time of eating, he served the nymphs, the “veal-like” first stage that lacks the wings of the adult.
Praying we didn’t have any unforeseen cicada allergies, we tucked into the bug bonanza.
First down the hatch: Blanched edamame beans adorned with sea salt, the savory Japanese condiment furikake and of course, cicada nymphs fried to perfection.
Despite resembling desiccated prawns, they tasted plump and nutty — it paired especially well with a crisp lager.
Next up were “insect eggs”: Fried baby cicadas Yoon placed artfully atop a half of boiled quail egg, a dish he described as “symbolizing spring.” He drizzled it with a smoldering hot sauce concocted from fermented habaneros, honey and ground crickets for extra protein.
“Careful, that has some kick,” Yoon cautioned as we downed a whole spoonful.
The bug cook followed it up with garlic cicadas in leek and potato soup, then cicada kimchi with black rice, followed by pickled cicadas with silken tofu with gochu peppers, and ramps.
A far cry from the scorpion lollipops sold at museum gift shops, these intricate eats seemed like they could be served at a Michelin-starred restaurant. That’s because Yoon wanted to create “authentic, non-gimmicky” dishes that would help Westerners appreciate the cicada’s natural flavor, he said.
Case in point: A fried brown rice with cicadas, which the epicure said contributed the “umami” essence normally provided by shrimp and other crustaceans, their close relative. Though, “people with shellfish allergies are often allergic to cicadas,” he warned.
Cicadas weren’t the only creepy crawly in the lineup. Yoon served a Japanese wasp sake (not murder hornets, don’t worry) that evoked the contents of a yellow jacket trap. But the delicacy was surprisingly refreshing with the flotilla of insects serving as built-in bar snacks.
We concluded the meal with cicadas cocooned in Valrhona dark chocolate and festooned with gold leaf. It tasted like a Nestle crunch bar with the nymphs pinch-hitting for crisped rice.
Our meal was just a small sampler. In the coming weeks, Yoon told The Post he plans on “collecting the cicadas in all its lifecycles” from egg to adult.
“We’re gonna have cicada caviar,” said the edible insect ambassador, who urged others to partake in the harvest.
Fortunately, collecting has never been easier thanks to Cicada Safari, an app created by Kristsky that tracks Brood X’s whereabouts by having bug enthusiasts upload pics of where the critters have emerged. Once at a cicada hotspot, foragers should look out for “lots of holes around the size of your pinky,” the cicada expert explained. Their occupants come out in the evening by the hundreds when the ground temperature hits 64 degrees Fahrenheit.
“It’s important that you get them when they’re all white,” said the bug researcher, who’s also the Dean Of Behavioral and Natural Sciences at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinatti, Ohio. “That’s when they’re coming out the shell.”
“If you ever had a lobster where you take the exoskeleton off the tail, it’s got like this thick creamy-like layer,” described Kritsky. “That’s also exoskeletal material that hasn’t hardened yet.”
He advised getting their bodies on ice immediately, since after three hours, their once-tender shells harden to the consistency of a “shrimp tail.”
And while an entomologist encouraging cicada consumption might seem akin to Jane Goodall giving out chimp recipes, researchers feel the practice conversely promotes cicada conservation by increasing their visibility to humans, according to Yoon. He believes that supplementing our diet with bugs is becoming increasingly crucial due to environmental concerns.
“The real purpose and motivation behind the work that we’re doing is to address food security,” said Yoon, who’s hosted insect cooking demonstrations at institutions from the Smithsonian to the Staten Island Museum. “To focus on how we can sustainably produce enough protein in 2050 when we’re going to have 9.5 billion people on earth, and without depleting our water.”
Indeed, research shows that crickets pack more protein per pound than beef and require at least six times less feed, the Atlantic reported.
However, unlike, many countries where entomophagy is the norm, the US still remains resistant to grabbing some grub.
“Insects have a potential of being a major food source,” said Kritsky. “It’s just our sensibilities in the West that we don’t like to eat bugs. We eat shrimp, we eat lobster, we eat arthropods.
Like the cicada, he hopes we can finally break out of our shell.
Eager to try out your own culinary skills on this year’s crop of Brood X cicadas? Here’s Jenna Jadin’s 2004 “Cicada-licious” recipe for Chocolate-Chip Trillers.
Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies
2-1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 12-oz package of chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup dry roasted chopped cicadas
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
- In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt, then set aside
- In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla, then beat till creamy, incorporating eggs.
- Gradually add flour mixture and insects, mix well. Stir in chocolate chips
- Scooping up the dough with a rounded teaspoon, drop spoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet
- Bake for 8-10 minutes