Insects in Indonesian cuisine

This article is also available in: Italiano

For us they are a distant future and, possibly, to be avoided, in Southeast Asia, however, they are already a gastronomic tradition. We take you to discover some of the most curious preparations and traditions that bind insects and Indonesia, the largest “Muslim country” in the world.

Proteins of the future

With more and more requests for an eco-sustainable future, humans have also begun to reflect on their basic forms of sustenance, including meat. Many are those who oppose the slaughter and killing of mammals such as cows, goats, but not only. This often concerns a more ethical sphere than anything else but it must be said that, over time, it will be objectively more complicated to maintain, for example, a ranch as we know it today. This is due to the technical lack of space but, above all, due to the immense pollution that these animals release into the atmosphere, in addition to the care they need.

Insects Indonesia
The Bau Nyale, an ancient tradition that consists in fishing for water worms

Precisely for this reason, the scientific and agronomic community is looking with increasing interest at different life forms, including insects. These beings, as opposed to “animals “, have very short life cycles, as well as being smaller and with a more concentrated amount of proteins and the like. Having a large colony of crickets, in short, will soon become a very economical and practical way to be completely self-subsistent. , being able to have in their garage the nutritional equivalent of a herd of Texan cows. If for the “western world” (but not only) these beings are still considered almost a taboo, this is not true for various parts of the world, including Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. In these, and others in Southeast Asia, entomophagy has ancient origins, constituting in some states unique traditions that are still ongoing today. Today we will focus in particular on Indonesia, the country where they live more Muslims in the world.

Insect-based menu from Java and Kalimantan

It should be noted immediately that, compared to its entire territory, the 14th largest in the world, such habits are not so widespread. Insects cannot be eaten all over the country, but there are places like Java and Kalimantan where, on the other hand, the question is quite different. In these two islands, in fact, insects have always been consumed, constituting an important variant of the local diet. There are not too many foods with the base of insects, but in many of the local cuisine you can easily replace the meat with your favorite arthropod. Of course, not all of them are eaten and we tend to prefer: crickets, grasshoppers, termites, bees and the larvae of the red weevil.

Insects Indonesia
Fried crickets

One of the most typical ways to savor crickets is to wrap them in batter, or to make rempeyeks, a sort of local flour crackers fried in oil. It is also very interesting why termites are preferred in the monsoon season. Just in that period they mate, making them very easy prey, ready to be roasted.

Hive stew and Bau Nyale

One of the traditional dishes of Java is then botok, which in one of its most particular versions even features a beehive as protagonist. The latter are seasoned with coconut and spices, wrapped in banana leaves and finally stewed. It must be said that, as with all these recipes, the most popular versions in Indonesia are not with an insect base but with ingredients that are more familiar to us.

Insects Indonesia
Botok tawon, made from beehive

It must be said that, however, there are also real foods that have entered the imagination of some local populations: the red weevil and the Nyale. The first, in reality, simply makes us strange given the disasters it is causing in Southern Italy, paradoxical that there its larvae are considered a delicacy, good both raw and roasted. The Nyale is instead an aquatic worm closely linked to some traditions of the Sasak people of the island of Lombok, also in Indonesia. In fact, it seems that Princess Mandalika, daughter of Raja Tonjang Beru, incarnated herself in these worms to escape the will of her father, transforming herself from beautiful to “less beautiful” to be free of her. Even today, between February and March, fishermen gather on the beaches south of Lombok, hoping to find the legendary lady.

The week dedicated to the environment continues, tomorrow “environmentalism in Islam”.

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