May 24, 2013 / 10:31 PM / 5 years ago

Tempura-battered tarantula on menu at California bug fest

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hungry? How about tempura-battered fried Tarantula for an appetizer? They’re frozen then defrosted before bug chef David George Gordon cuts off the abdomen, singes off hairs with a lighter and dunks the remaining spider body into batter.

“You just have to brown it up for a couple of minutes. Then I add my secret ingredient, a pinch of smoked paprika for flavor. The best part are the legs,” said Gordon, speaking at an insect cooking demonstration in Hollywood aimed at showcasing insects as a sustainable food.

Other treats being served up at the third annual Bug-A-Thon at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Hollywood on Friday include Scorpion Scaloppine and dishes consisting of the chef’s choice bugs: grasshoppers, cockroaches and other savory surprises.

Considered the planet’s most sustainable source of eco-friendly and inexpensive animal protein, the practice of eating insects is practiced globally by two-thirds of the world’s population, said Andrea Silverman, the manager of Ripley’s Hollywood, who said the demonstration aimed to spread the word about the nutritional value of bugs.

“The tarantula was great. It tasted like shrimp tempura. I also tried the grasshoppers. I ate the whole thing starting with the head! It tasted like pepper!” she said.

She added that nutrient-rich crickets provide three times the calcium and iron as beef, require hundreds of times less water to generate the same amount of protein as a cow, and reportedly taste like “nutty shrimp.”

“In America we’re the weird ones because we don’t eat bugs. We’re a nation of bug-bashers,” said Gordon, who has authored a bug cookbook and lives in Seattle with his wife and pet tarantula.

Other bugs deemed good enough to eat at the fest, which continues on Saturday, include ants, worms and termites as well as caterpillars, dung beetles and wasps.

“I bought these from Oaxaca, Mexico,” Gordon explained of his favored Chapulines, or grasshoppers, that 10-year-old visitor Dylan Vaughan was brave enough to try and deemed them “good and spicy.”

Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker

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