Weird Food

Weird Food 4: Scorpion

It’s finally going to happen. This week, I am finally going to indulge one of the darkest corners of my curiosity and try surströmming, the notoriously horrible-smelling Swedish fermented herring.

I was actually going to try it today. Then I realized that we only have one can opener in the house. A good can opener. An expensive can opener built to last. And if the stories I’ve heard are true, I’m likely to have to discard most of the plates, utensils, garbage bags, furniture, and clothes that are contaminated by surströmming juice. So before I can do that, I have to go buy a cheap can opener and probably a tablecloth to wear like a poncho.

This was my other menu option:

Scorpion Body.png

That is a black scorpion (also known as an Asian forest scorpion, or Heterometrus longimanus).

It looked like poison and death. It smelled like molasses. Of all the bugs I’ve eaten in the past month (more than I should have, no doubt), the scorpion was by far the crunchiest. I started with a leg. The leg was unpleasant. It was obscenely crunchy and didn’t seem to have any actual meat. It tasted foul, too. A bit like the smell of cat food mixed with the smell of pool chlorine. For the first time in my brief bug-eating career, I had to cleanse my palate with coffee.

Next, I tried the claw. Of all the parts of the scorpion, that one looked the most like food, because it looked like a lobster claw. Turns out that convergent evolution’s a bitch. It looked like a lobster claw, but it tasted like almost nothing, and the exoskeleton was so crunchy it was like biting down on a pistachio shell.

I went for the rear-most body segment after that, the one right before the tail. Before I bit into actual meat, a piece of exoskeleton immediately jammed between my teeth like one of those irritating popcorn husks. My reward for biting through that crunchy mess? Meat that tasted almost exactly like dry cat food (which yes, I have tasted) and followed up with a nasty bitterness. The head was the same story, only less offensively crunchy.

Finally, I steeled my courage to take a bite of this:

Scorpion Tail.png

I should point out that I did not eat that stinger. Even I have my limits. For one, that’s where the venom gland is, and though most of the venom is probably gone, and most scorpions aren’t dangerously venomous anyway, my instincts prevent me from intentionally swallowing venom. That’s why I’m not dead. My instincts also prevent me from chewing up and swallowing an arachnid’s anus, which, as it turns out, is on the underside of the stinger. (I discovered this while researching to find out where the venom gland was. I also discovered that, apparently, scorpions have “anal valves”, which is my new phrase for the week).

I took a bite out of the segment at the opposite tend. It was far too crunchy, once again. It shattered noisily between my teeth into thousands of pieces which I had to spend a minute or two chewing. That minute or two gave me ample time to feel like an idiot, because once again, the tail tasted like cat food with a foul bitter aftertaste. After that, I declared failure and returned the disassembled scorpion to the bag. Trouble is, there was another whole one in the bag, so now I’ve got to decide whose birthday cake I want to decorate.

The Verdict

Way too crunchy. Tastes like cat food, bitterness, and chemicals, and filled me with the fear that I would poison myself and die in the stupidest possible way. Would not recommend.

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Weird Food

Weird Food 2: Giant Waterbug

Also known as Belatomastids, water scorpions, toe-biters, and alligator ticks. These nasty buggers will happily catch and eat anything from other bugs to lizards, frogs, and fish. They’re apparently a delicacy in southeast Asia. Which is weird, considering that they look almost exactly like cockroaches:

Waterbug Top.png

(Sorry the picture came out so bad. By the time I realized it was blurry, I’d already eaten the damn thing.)

That is one huge bug. I couldn’t find my ruler, but it has to be at least three or four inches long. And its underside makes it look, as Stuart Ashen once said, like a cross between an Egyptian mummy and a praying mantis:

Waterbug Bottom.png

Unlike with the tarantula, I actually hesitated to eat this thing. I looked at its creepy face and its weird legs, and I hesitated. If it was alive, I’m sure it would’ve sensed my fear, latched onto my face, and sucked my brains out through my eyeball. Luckily, someone in Thailand killed it for me.

The flavor is unpleasant. The underlying flavor is meaty and fairly nice. Like well-brined chicken or maybe crab. However, on top of that flavor are two other flavors. The first tastes like the smell of fish food. The second, I can only describe as tasting like the smell of clean laundry. I heard someone say these were supposed to taste fruity. Maybe that weird perfuminess was what they meant.

The texture is also a turn-off. It’s amazingly crunchy, and I had to spend a minute or two chewing each bite to break it down enough that it felt right to swallow. It doesn’t help that the exoskeleton has a texture a little bit like a dry leaf, and the wings (which came off as I was eating the bug) have a texture almost exactly like a dry leaf. Here’s a picture with a bite taken out of it, to prove I actually ate it.

Waterbug Eaten.png

That gross-looking crumbly stuff in the middle was actually the best-tasting part. That was what tasted like meat. I ended up eating the whole thing, and then I got to have a completely novel experience: having a burp that tastes like a giant waterbug. At least I’m expanding my horizons, right?

The Verdict

If you want to eat a bug, and you’re not a lizard and not easily grossed-out by its looks, the giant waterbug is a good place to start. It’s not as intimidating as the chewy spider I ate the other day. The flavor is more food-like than the spider was, and the meaty saltiness is actually kind of nice. Still, I’d only advise buying one of these if you can get it fairly cheap, have a strong stomach, and aren’t allergic to crustaceans.

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