South Korea looks to generate buzz for edible insects

Fri Aug 12, 2016 1:07pm EDT
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By Jane Chung

SEOUL (Reuters) - Bae Su-Hyeon's lunch of sweet potato soup and funghi pasta has bugs in it. They're part of the recipe.

"It didn't feel like eating insects," says Bae, an 18-year-old student having lunch with a friend at Papillon's Kitchen, a Seoul restaurant specialising in insects.

That's because the mealworms in her dishes were hydrolised into powder to make the pasta and soup.

Insect-eating, or entomophagy, has long been common in much of the world, including South Korea, where boiled silky worm pupae, or beondegi, are a popular snack.

Now, South Korea is looking to expand its insect industry as a source of agricultural income by promoting more consumption, joining a global trend that has seen rising interest in insects as a nutritious and environmentally friendly food.

To do that, the government is trying to make people more comfortable with the idea of eating crickets and mealworms that are ground into powder or hydrolysed to extract oils and protein and turned into food, from ice cream to sausages.

Kim Young Wook, chief executive of the private-sector Korean Edible Insect Laboratory and owner of Papillon's Kitchen, said key to winning over sceptical customers was presentation.

"If people taste foods after having a good first impression, and find they are delicious, that's everything, because taste speaks for itself," he said this week at a tasting event staged by the Agriculture Ministry.   Continued...

A sales assistant poses for photographs with a mealworm cookie in Seoul, South Korea, August 8, 2016. Picture taken August 8, 2016.  REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji