Tokyo Diners Can't Get Enough of Insect Ramen

CC BY 2.0. Flavio Ensiki

When the Ramen Nagi restaurant created a special insect-centric menu just for fun, it sold out within hours.

There are a lot of foods in Japan that cause visitors to raise a skeptical eyebrow. Dishes like fried chicken cartilage, fermented soy beans, and raw horse are hardly the sorts of foods we drool over back in North America, and the latest trend is no exception. Tokyo residents are now turning their attention to edible insects.

A well-known ramen restaurant called Ramen Nagi hosted a one-day event on April 9, preparing 100 bowls of insect-laden ramen called “insect tsukemen” that sold out in four hours. Photos from Reuters show people lining up in the rain outside Ramen Nagi, eager to try eating insects for the first time.

The noodles came topped with a dozen fried crickets and mealworms, which customers then dipped into soup flavored with cricket, grasshopper, or silkworm powders. The special menu included spring rolls with fried worms and ice cream made with insect powder.

Anri Nakatani, a 22-year-old student who went to Ramen Nagi to eat insects for the first time, was pleased: “It's deep-fried, so it's really crispy, and it doesn't have a bad taste. It’s almost like a deep-fried shrimp.”

Inspiration for the event came from Nagi’s owner Yuta Shinohara, another 22-year-old who grew up eating insects in rural Japan, where insects do appear occasionally on the dinner table (though rarely in the city). He told Euro News:

“Ramen is Japan’s national dish. Through ramen, I’d like to spread how fun and delicious it is to eat insects.”

Shinohara seems to be on to something big. Evidently a daring foodie, he organized an insect-eating night on Valentine’s Day this year that had people drinking cocktails out of cockroach-garnished glasses, dipping beetles into chocolate fondue, and savoring whipped cream that included the internal fluids of giant Thai water bugs, known for their sweet taste.

If Ramen Nagi sold out of its 100 bowls of insect tsukemen within four hours, it’s fairly safe to assume Shinohara will be putting it back on the menu before long.