Vientiane restaurant wins competition for best recipe using insect protein as main ingredient.
During August 2010 the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations held a competition in which chefs at several of Vientiane’s most popular restaurants were challenged to create meals that employed insect protein as the main ingredient. The objective of the event was both to pay tribute to native Lao cuisine and to encourage the use of edible insects in the Lao diet as a way to improve nutrition and food security. “Saep Laai Laai 2010” was the first major food celebration in the Lao PDR that focused on the use of insects as a main element in local and international cuisines.
When judging closed, the FAO announced that the winning restaurant was Sticky Fingers, runner up was Makphet Restaurant and the third place went to the Simply Me Cafe. In an attempt to keep with the crowd here, I sought out the chef at Sticky Fingers to discuss his recipe and to sample the prize-winning entry: Cricket Tacos.
While the chef was happy to discuss his creation with me he was, at first, pessimistic about my chances of sampling the meal. He explained that crickets were available only seasonally and their harvest had long since ended. Luckily, he found one remaining packet of frozen cricket meat in the restaurant’s freezer and, with its discovery, was eager to prepare a plate of tacos for me.
I’m happy to report, unconditionally, that the tacos were delicious! (Well… perhaps not an unqualified endorsement, since the tacos that I ate were heavily spiced with a fiery salsa that surely masked the natural taste the cricket meat. Was I cowardly? Should I have gone light on the salsa? I can only offer this defense: after three months away from home I was really hungry for Tex/Mex grub.
To give cricket meat a true test, when they are back in season I plan to eat a few prepared as most Lao people cook them: roasted whole on skewers over hot coals and served free of any added seasoning. I’m told to expect, believe it or not, a slight chocolate flavor.
Recipe for ant egg soup
Ant eggs are available year round in Laos and are one of the most popular insect products used in various recipes. They are available fresh in season and either frozen or canned when needed out of season.
The following recipe is for a spicy soup popular among many Lao ethnic groups.