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Would You Chow Down On A Cicada? This Brooklyn Chef Says They're Delicious

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Em Unravelling
Em Unravelling
 24 days ago
CicadaPhoto by Michael Kropiewnicki from Pexels

Have you heard of the Brood X emergence? No? Well, I'll tell you. Every 17 years, the Great Eastern Brood species of cicada makes its way up through the ground to molt into adults, mate, and produce new nymphs. So - some time this month - billions of cicadas are due to appear in New York and 15 states across the mid-Atlantic (including Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Tennessee). They're big insects, up to 2 inches long with black bodies and red eyes, and the Great Eastern brood is one of the biggest in the nation.

This influx of cicadas doesn't sound like great news, particularly. Billions of bugs in the city? Hardly something to celebrate. But Brooklyn chef Joseph Yoon thinks differently. As the owner of Brooklyn Bugs, he's seeking to turn the Brood X emergence into an excuse for a gourmet feast - of insect-based delicacies.

There’s a misconception that you can pick up a bug and eat it. We need to come up with a new understanding, a new perception . . . to separate the bug in your house from what we’re eating. - Joseph Yoon

So, OK. We can't scoop up handfuls of inch-long black and red insects and cram them into our mouths. No, Yoon says - what we need to do is treat them as we would any other protein-giving ingredient, and put time into preparing recipes featuring the little critters. For example, on his Brooklyn Bugs menu is a dish of black ants on garlic shrimp, and grasshoppers on chocolate mousse.

The Brood X cicadas, which emerge when temperatures in the ground reach around 63.5 degrees, will remain in place and edible for around 2 weeks from the point they appear. Yoon says they'll be tastiest at the earlier part of this window, so I'm thinking that's round Anyway, Yoon says they should be boiled for 2-3 minutes and then drained and rinsed. He says you can add them to stir fry, mac-and-cheese, or a bolognese sauce.

Yoon wants to rebrand cicadas from "creepy crawlies" to a delicacy, up there with caviar or lobster. He's working, in fact, on "cicada caviar", with specific reference to the Brood X specimens. He says he's excited to see what he can cook up from the Brood X emergence and mentions "cicada fried rice" as a particular delicacy. He points out that insects are a great source of protein, and in a world where the environmental impact of meat production hits headlines regularly, he says we ought to be turning our minds to alternatives.

So. Deep-fried cicadas as a snack tonight, anyone?