You probably consider eating a cockroach disgusting, because in Western society we do not value insects as a food source. We largely consider them dirty creatures that need to be eradicated, not eaten. But do you know that cockroaches are eaten by people in many different countries and cultures around the world, especially in Asia?
Yes, cockroaches are edible and healthy to eat provided they are prepared properly. They must be washed and thoroughly cooked prior to eating in order to ensure that any bacteria on the cockroach is killed. Don’t eat a raw cockroach, though, just as you wouldn’t eat raw chicken or beef. The germs need to be burnt off in the cooking process. Usually this is accomplished by frying the roaches in vegetable oil, which also gives them a crunchy and crispy texture.
For example, here in Thailand insects are served in many local dishes and are also quite popular as a street food. Frequently, food carts can be spotted with the various types of insects on display, which many Western tourists often gawk at and stop to take pictures after overcoming their initial shock. Fried roaches are quite popular with the local people, however.
I have to admit, I did a double take the first time I saw a street food cart filled with various fried insects including cockroaches. I did my best to be polite and not show it, but I have to admit that the strong cultural notions I brought with me from America made me look down on the practice of eating roaches, initially.
But since then I have become accustomed to the practice, and it doesn’t shock me anymore. In fact, I really think it is a quite sensible idea. If cockroaches are plentiful and cheap, and also tasty, why shouldn’t they be eaten? It only makes sense. For most people, it’s just a matter of getting over your pre-existing hangups about cockroaches being dirty and disgusting. However, this may prove to be quite a high hurdle, indeed, for some.
Cockroach nutrition: a great alternative source of protein
Roaches and insects are actually quite nutritious and high in protein. Animal sources of protein can be quite costly, especially for many people of countries with lower incomes. Do you know that over 50% of the world’s population lives on less than three dollars a day? This makes it impossible for the majority of the worlds population to eat meat on a daily basis, which poses quite a nutritional problem for them.
For this reason, the use of insects as food and an alternative source of protein is being promoted by some researchers and nutritionists. Obviously, it is much cheaper to farm insects than it is to raise beef or chicken or pork. Not only is it cheaper to eat cockroaches, it is also better for the environment. Less meat means less greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming.
The locals here in Thailand claim that roaches taste great, and that’s the reason they form the basis for a number of comfort foods in the local culture. I, admittedly though, still have not yet felt adventurous enough to take the plunge and eat a cockroach. But I take their word for it that roaches are delicious and completely healthy to eat. I think if I couldn’t afford to buy beef, chicken, and the more traditional forms of animal protein, I would definitely be open to eating insects as a replacement.
On a side note, the giant Madagascar hissing cockroach is a well known species of edible cockroach. Supposedly the taste of the hissing cockroach is reminiscent of greasy chicken.
Have you tried eating cockroaches or do you think the idea is simply repulsive? Please comment below.