I was at an oriental market the other day and found a package in the seafood freezer labeled “Cooked Silk Worm” and could not resist. It seemed way to far up my alley not to try. My alley is a strange, twisted place…
I knew silkworms were eaten in other parts of the world, and I’ve eaten Sago grubs in Ecuador before and loved them. These being packaged in food-like packaging, I figured I’d have a go.
The silkworm, Bombyx mori, is the larva of the domesticated silkmoth. They produce the silk used to make fabrics. The caterpillars are fed on mulberry leaves until they build a cocoon out of silk thread and then pupate inside. At this point, the cocoon and the pupa are boiled, and the silk thread is unwound from the cocoon. What this package contains is actually the pupae that remain once the cocoon is unspun.
The silkworm is not found in the wild, and is completely dependent on humans to survive. As far as I can tell, people have been raising silkworms for thread for at least 5,000 years. In the culinary trade, they are often sold as “ground cucumber”.
They were frozen solid in a block of ice, so I began by thawing them out in a bowl of water.
Once thawed, I spread them on a baking sheet to roast in the oven. I heated the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and cooked the silkworms for 15 minutes to dry them a bit. This got rid of the mushy texture by making the shell more crunchy.
Here they are after coming out of the oven. I tried one at this point to see what kind of flavour I was working with. It was somewhat nutty, but kind of bland. I had read of someone coating silk worms in brown sugar, so I decided to try that.
The downside of this is that it ended up softening the shells again. I think perhaps they could have used a bit more roasting. Tasting once again, they were much better but still missing something. With a slight crunch and sweet, nutty flavour, I though “kettle corn” and sprinkled them with salt. This was exactly what they needed.
The flavour is not bad at all. The texture, I can get used to. It is crunchy on the outside, but pops when you bite down, releasing a paste-like inside. The hardest part for me is what students of religion or psychology know as the “visceral response to the taboo”. That is to say, you’re taste buds may say “Yum” but your brain says “Ew! A bug!”. Somewhere in the disagreement, my stomach begins to turn a bit.
All in all, I ate about a half dozen tonight, and I’m confident enough in my cooking that I plan on sharing the rest tomorrow. Odds are, I’ll be eating most of them.
~The Homesteading Hippy