I’ve always known people ate a lot of different bugs, but never in a million years did I think there were edible centipedes. But, apparently, the Chinese red-headed centipede is a folk remedy in China and a traditional food among Aboriginal Australians. This is what one looks like when it’s cooked, dried, and salted:
I try to be open-minded about my food, but I guess centipedes are beyond my limit, because unlike with the tarantula and the waterbug, I went into this with more fear than curiosity. Part of that has to do with the fact that this centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes) is known to be venomous. Not lethally so, unless you have a really bad reaction, but venomous nonetheless. Therefore, I only ate the back three or four segments. And by “ate” I mean “chewed for a while, then spit out, and then rinsed my mouth after that.” I started to wonder if eating a centipede would be like eating a bunch of bee stingers, and I had visions of my throat closing up and having the world’s most ridiculous death certificate. “Cause of death: stupid dumbass tried to eat a centipede.”
But I did chew it up, and I did taste it. If you’ve ever kept fish, you’ve probably had those fishy-smelling food flakes. And, more than likely, you’ve tasted them at least once, out of curiosity. They have the smell of a seafood section at a Chinese grocery store: very shrimpy and fishy. Not rotten or rancid, but remarkably pungent and, to Western palates, a bit unpleasant. That’s what a dried centipede smells like, and that’s pretty much what it tastes like: meat, fish and/or hermit crab food, and an underlying grassy flavor. To nobody’s surprise, the texture isn’t great. I mean, come on, it’s a centipede. It’s mostly exoskeleton, legs, fangs, and poison. But chewing it didn’t kill me, and now I have an ass-less centipede in a bag that I can use to…I don’t know. Frighten relatives? Decorate a really horrible birthday cake? Preserve and turn into a scary lapel pin? I can’t bear to throw it out, for some reason. But I’m certainly not going to eat any more. And I’m definitely not going to swallow any.
I don’t recommend it, unless your curiosity is so insatiable that you can’t rest until you’ve eaten a centipede. And if that’s happening, I recommend a round of counseling. If you still want to eat a centipede after that, then go for it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.