Weird Food

Weird Food 3: Centipede

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:

Centipede.png

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.

The Verdict

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.

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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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