This typical Japanese dish comes with insects and it’s a success


Traditionally decorated with pork or chicken, ramen can also veer for a more environmentally friendly variant.

Ramen, a staple of Japanese noodles, is traditionally available in pork or chicken. But in Tokyo, a young chef with a passion for nature decided to try an extra spice: locusts. “There are 10,000 locusts in this dish, enough to prepare a hundred bowls” Yuto Shinohara, 26, explains to stir the contents of a large pot.

Lifting insects to the same level as animals

At first glance, nothing distinguishes the ramen from Yuto Shinohara’s kitchens from those found in Japan: thin white noodles dipped in salted broth, with juicy slices of meat and large pieces of bamboo sprouts. It is hard to suspect that he uses locusts to make broth unlike for any of these insects, whole and fried, prominently placed next to the leaves of Mitsuba, Japanese parsley.

The young man is not a graduate chef and prefers to describe himself as “Child of the Earth”. It was his love of nature that drove him to cook insects, he says. “I want to show that we enjoy eating insects so that they are considered as much as (other) animals or plants”.Explain.

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His love of small animals, Yuto Shinohara developed him as a child, when he spent most of his time in fields and bushes, trying to catch locusts and cicadas. His fascination was such that he began to taste it, in secret: “Before I was about 20, I couldn’t tell anyone that I liked insects or that They were asash”Recalls. “I was afraid of being classified as the strange boy at school and being harassed for it.”

A taboo in the West

Insects have been eaten for millennia in many parts of the world, from Asia to Africa to Latin America and Oceania. But in Western countries in particular, there is a cultural blockade on this issue, which vonexperts or the environment are trying to lift by highlighting the richness of insect meat in proteins and minerals and their ecological footprint much smaller than meat.

However, Mr Shinohara refuses to see insects as food “last resort” : because in his eyes, it is more of a refined dish. He takes the example of phalera flavescens, small white caterpillars that were not seen in Japan because of their strong taste for cherry blossoms. “They are really delicious, with the taste of a delicate Japanese pastry. The caterpillar only eats the cherry leaves so that it preserves the scents”, he boasts.

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Yuto Shinohara and his team planned to open a restaurant specializing in insect cooking in central Tokyo in April, but the project is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. In the meantime, they have launched an offer of ramen of locusts to cook at home. “Our last series sold out in just three hours”Mr Shinohara said.

With Belga