Insects Dish in Yunnan
By Robert, an expatriate and long-time resident in Kunming
Obviously, eating insects is an acquired taste but, in Kunming and other parts of Yunnan, decent or markets restaurants and the ubiquitous roadside barbecue food stalls offer a wide variety of edible insects for the connoisseur which include bamboo worms, grasshoppers and wasp larvae all of which are of course rich in protein, and when fried or grilled in seasoned oil or with herbs and spices they are transformed into highly desirable and popular snacks with a distinctive taste. Insects supposedly are good for one’s health as they are far more efficient than livestock in converting vegetable matter into protein. Here are some of the more popular and desirable insect delicacies which the local population enjoy.
In Dali, silkworm chrysalises are sold by the bowl. This area is ideal for silk production because of the vast expanse of semi-arid land which is ideal for cultivating corn and mulberry trees. When the silk is removed the worm scalded in hot water and sold. It is however a seasonal product in summertime. Fried silkworm chrysalis is delicious but it can cause skin trouble for those allergic to high protein.
When deep fried its distinctive rich aroma can be smelt a mile away; and it is a favorite insect dish, nothing beats it. If lucky, you will chance upon this delicacy in some restaurants or food stalls in Dali. For those who want to try silkworm chrysalis in Kunming, the chance is very slim, and I only once saw traders sell them in Majie Market in the west of Kunming.
“Bamboo worm” is the local name for what in Latin is called Chilofrusciden-talis Hampson. This kind of mollusk is available in most restaurants and barbecue stalls in Yunnan province. They do resemble the bird feed you may’ve seen in the Jingxing Free Market of Kunming. The first time I sampled this delicacy was two years ago in Xinping County about 2 hours’ drive from Kunming, after I and some friends finished one-day tour in Mopan Mt. Instead of visiting a tea house, we went to local night barbecue in the county seat, and ordered some snacks. The fried worm was one of them, and I remember asking for another after finishing the first plate in 15 minutes. When we came back to Kunming and eating out, we find some restaurants in the city have bamboo worms. One of them is Bamboo Civet Time (Zhu Li Guan, 0871-65360866) beside Grand Park Hotel near the Green Lake.
Another favorite delicacy is the locust. These bugs usually feed on crops like rice. In many folktales of Yunnan’s ethnic minorities, locusts used to damage crops, and the torch festival in Shilin County is said to celebrate the triumph over this pest (locusts expelled by torches in many other places too). With the limbs plucked off, these six-legged bugs are usually deep fried and are much like nuts an accompaniment to drinks. In Yuxi, Wenshan, Dali, Honghe and Xishuangbanna, where rice is widely grown, locusts feature prominently on the menu in night barbecue stalls and restaurants. And if you are a really gourmet, you can easily find this in the night barbeques in Kunming.
Ethnic minorities such as the Hani, Dai, Jingpo and De’ang in Honghe, Dehong and Xishuangbanna prefectures have traditionally included insects in their daily diet. In addition to locusts and bamboo worms, ant eggs and bee larva are also enjoyed. Go to these ethnic flavor restaurants in Kunming, and you may have chance to try.
Anyway these dishes are, once tried, proven to be quite addictive!