Energy bar, cracker or sausage: Insects, particularly crickets, are found in many Thai dishes, a sign of growing interest in this planet-friendly source of protein. The market for edible insects has attracted attention as an alternative to meat, and the market is set to expand into a multi-billion dollar industry in the coming years.
The Bounce Burger restaurant in Thailand appeared with a menu of hamburgers and cricket sausages, croquettes, energy bars and even cricket crackers.
“Crickets don’t have to be just at street stalls served with soy sauce,” said Poopipat Thiapairat, co-owner of Bounce Burger.
“It can be hamburgers, pastries, cookies, or even the paprika seasoning used in French fries. All of that is possible,” he added.
– Makeover –
Crickets are a great source of protein and contain numerous vitamins. Despite this, Poopipat admitted that arthropods need a makeover because “they are not really consumer friendly.”
“If we open a restaurant and serve cricket-based food that doesn’t look like crickets, the consumer might be open to trying it,” he said.
“The problem with crickets is that they get stuck in the throat,” he explained, noting that the restaurant removes the “hard” parts of the insect, such as the wings and legs, leaving only the fleshy body.
“It’s the same concept as beef or pork, because we don’t eat the bones.”
It is normal for Thais to eat insects as a snack, but Pawan Thedthong acknowledged that for others it is not, as he ate an insect at a fry stall in Bangkok.
“You see the foreigners passing by and they don’t dare to try the insects,” said the 24-year-old.
“If they process them to look like something more attractive, maybe people will eat them more.”
– Less meat –
One of the attractions of cricket production is that its environmental impact is much less than raising cows or pigs. A 2017 study suggested that chicken production in Thailand was responsible for 89% more carbon emissions than the insect industry. Thailand has thousands of insect farms, while other parts of the world are just discovering their benefits. Many of those farms produce animal feed but some are now focused on human consumption, like the Bricket R&D Cricket Farm, opened in 2019. The farm on the outskirts of Bangkok supplies Bounce’s kitchen with 160 kilos of crickets each month. The process is carefully controlled, with the insects chilled to sleep, washed and then prepared for food, explains managing director Thanaphum Muang-Ieam.
On burgers, the crickets are placed on top, but for products like energy bars and cookies, Bounce cooks use a powder made from the ground bugs, which they include in the mix that goes into the oven.
And for customers?
“It tastes good, the sauce mixes with the smell of the crickets,” says Anut Sottthibandhu, a customer eating a burger.
“I don’t feel like there are bugs in my burger,” he adds with a smile.