Friday, September 30, 2011

Weird or disgusting food series: inago and hachi-no-ko

 In my previous lab at the university we had a student from Asahikawa, the second largest city on the Hokkaido island (Sapporo being the largest). One day I bought a ticket to Asahikawa for half the price from a friend who for some reason had bought a ticket months before but never gotten around to using it and the day I bought it was the last day it could be used. I asked our student from Asahikawa for a good restaurant to go to in Asahikawa and he recommended a yakitori (grilled chicken on skewers) place that had both good chicken and weird food on the menu.

Inago (front) and hachi-no-ko (back)

I also managed to get hold of two aquaintances that lived in Asahikawa; two young (around 20) Japanese girls. They picked me up at the station and we went looking for the weird food. We ordered "inago" (grasshoppers) and "hachi-no-ko" (bee larvae, literally children of bees). This is actually Japanese food and not considered weird food at all in some parts of Japan. My Hokkaido friends consider it weird and not at all Japanese food, though. Perhaps because Hokkaido is too cold to house much in the way of insects? Anyway, friends from Gunma (further south in Japan) confirm that this is completely normal, and popular, Japanese food.

Hachi. Not all the "hachi" (bees) were "ko" (children/larvae), we got some grown-ups too.
In Sweden we do not eat insects, so this food seemed strange to me. The two young girls that were with me also thought the idea of eating insects was disgusting, but we all dug in anyway. The girls managed to eat insects fairly well. I just figured "when in Japan..." and ate all I could find.

The inago grasshoppers were prepared in something sweet and tasted very much like raisins. A little bit dry, but otherwise quite good.

The hachi-no-ko bee larvae came in some kind of sauce that was also a bit sweet. They did not taste much except for the sauce taste, so the taste was good. Since these are larvae/egg like things, they do however explode in your mouth when you bite down on them. Thinking: "Ah, the inside of mouth just got covered in bee intestines" does feel a bit disgusting. Other than that, this too was quite fine.

Taste: good
Texture: fine (crunchy) for the grasshoppers, a bit disgusting for the bee larvae
Look: a bit disgusting if you are not used to eating insects
Overall impression: surprsingly good, would eat again

P.S. While inago are quite good, I have also tried kourogi grasshoppers (a larger breed of grasshoppers) and these taste horrible. Do not mistakenly eat kourogi.

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