Washington Chef Serves Up Sustainable Cicada Sushi

Written by VIVA Staff

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Photo by Laura Gilchrist on Unsplash

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Hong Kong-born chef Bun Lai, a champion of the sustainable food movement, is all about cooking with readily-available, ethically-sourced ingredients. This past weekend in Washington D.C.'s Fort Totten Park, that meant cooking with cicadas.

Cicadas, for those unaware, are a species of insect that lay dormant for a period of 17 years before emerging, en masse, to mate. The insects' 17-year slumber is currently ending in parts of the United States—meaning they're absolutely everywhere, and ripe for the picking for those willing to eat them.

While most people would prefer to avoid eating bugs at all costs, Bun believes insects will ultimately become a crucial part of the human diet as other protein sources become more difficult to procure. He also feels that, when cooked properly, insects are not nearly as unpalatable as you might expect—hence his decision to cook cicadas in the park.

“In a world where we’re suffering from the biggest pandemic in history — which is not COVID, but diet-related diseases — we’re going to have to take a revolutionary approach to how we’re used to eating,” Bun said (via The Japan Times).

Bun announced his cicada cookout on social media, inviting people to not only eat his creations, but help hunt, harvest and prepare them.

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“Free cicada hunt and cookout,” he tweeted. “Bring ingredients to cook with and join me in getting creative or just eat!”

Surprisingly, a significant number of people showed up, including a 36-year-old woman named Stella Roque, who sought to conquer a fear of bugs.

“I’m here today because Bun Lai invited me to try cooked cicadas, and I thought it was going to be an interesting experience,” she said. “I decided to come along, given that I had heard about the whole cicada apocalypse happening in the area.”

Roque and the rest of those assembled began by gathering cicadas and edible wild plants—all under Bun's watchful eye. Bun then seasoned the cicadas with salt, fried them in a large skillet, and wrapped them into sushi rolls.

The end result, as it turns out, was actually quite tasty—even for someone as insect-averse as Roque.

“I was actually terrified when holding it in my hand,” she said. “But … it was actually really tasty.”

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