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Time to hunt the giant crickets, which taste like pork tenderloin!

October 12, 2010

Do you have moles? No, this mound was made by a ‘Giant Cricket’!

The giant cricket of Chiang Mai, Thailand, makes a burrow surrounded by an impressive heap of soil. They remain inside the burrow during the hot day, but at night they get out to harvest seedlings which they drag back into their burrows. The other night when we came back from a dinner, the area around the prolific Dokmai Garden was lit by numerous torches, like giant fireflies in the night. These were farmers searching for giant crickets. Our gardener was out with a torch searching for giant crickets too. I asked him to save us some for breakfast.

In the morning, after helping myself,  I offered a bowl to our American guests Automne and Momo. They hesitated for quite a while, and I could hear giggles. After a while I asked if there was anything left – but no, they had finished the bowl. Personally I think giant crickets taste like pork tenderloin, and so they fetch a good price at the markets (about two Baht each). It is considered a pest in East Asia, but in your home garden you can control it by catching and eating it, or allow your gardeners to do it (they will be happy). Nutritional analyses conclude the giant cricket is a good source of fat and protein.

If you wish to see one in daytime, fill a ten litre watering can and pour the water into the hole. Eventually the giant cricket will come out to see who flooded his home. Take your picture, but if you handle him with your bare hands, he will pinch you with his powerful jaws.

The edible giant cricket (Tarbinskiellus (Brachytrupes) portentosus) differs from the edible mole cricket (Gryllotalpa orientalis) in that they are larger and more stout, while the mole cricket is more slender with prominent mole-like paws for digging. Other names for giant crickets are ‘big-headed cricket’, ‘large brown cricket’ and ‘short tailed cricket’. Vernacular names are fuzzy, but I believe they should be short and descriptive. As this cricket is 3.5-4.5 cm, its size is the most striking feature. ‘Giant Cricket’ is therefore a good name. The name ‘king cricket’ should be reserved for another family of crickets (Anostostomatidae), such as the New Zealand ‘Weta’.

When cooking a giant cricket, simply wring the head, heat some fish sauce and water in a frying pan, and fry the giant crickets swiftly (Ketsanee Seehamongkol).

However, for a westerner there is an instinctive barrier to put a bug in the mouth. Only through repeated experience insects will become as normal as shrimp. For a beginner, I propose that after cooking the giant crickets à la Ketsanee, wring the legs and antennae to make it less bug-like, put some juicy abdomens on a toast and cover with cheese slices. Bake swiftly in the oven until the cheese has melted, and eat your dish with a knife and a fork, drinking red or white wine. This westernised dish which I created can be called ‘gi-gong toast’. Gi-gong is the northern Thai name for the giant cricket.

Bon appétit!

Eric Danell

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