Insect-topped noodles sell out in Tokyo

A chef holds a bowl of 'insect tsukemen' noodles at Ramen Nagi restaurant in Tokyo. (Reuters photo)

TOKYO - Curious Japanese foodies queued up outside a Tokyo restaurant for a taste of a rare dish -- ramen garnished with deep-fried worms and crickets.

Within about four hours, the Ramen Nagi restaurant had sold out of the 100 bowls of "insect tsukemen" noodles it had prepared for Sunday's single-day event.

The noodles were topped with about a dozen small crickets and mealworms, which customers then dipped into soups flavoured with crickets, grasshoppers, or silkworm powder.

"It's deep-fried, so it's really crispy, and it doesn't have a bad taste," said 22-year-old student Anri Nakatani. "It's almost like a deep-fried shrimp."

The event was organised by the restaurant owner, and Yuta Shinohara, a 22-year-old who has set up insect-eating events in Tokyo, including a Valentine's Day celebration that served chocolates, cakes and cocktails featuring insects.

Shinohara, who started eating bugs as a child, wants to promote the alternative food culture in Japan and around the world, through ramen, a popular Japanese food.

"Through ramen, I'd like to spread how fun and delicious it is to eat insects," he said.

The full course, costing 3,000 yen (940 baht), consisted of insect ramen, a bowl of rice with crickets, spring rolls with fried worms, and ice cream flavoured with insect powder. The ramen alone cost 1,500 yen.

Insects are eaten in many countries, such as China, Ghana, Mexico and Thailand. Australia's indigenous groups have eaten insects for protein for generations.

Bugs are even part of traditional Japanese cuisine in rural areas, but few city dwellers have had the opportunity to try them.

California tourist Steve Lee enjoyed the dish, but said it would take time to catch on in the United States.

"Ramen is just taking off now in a big wave in California so ... maybe ten years, five years later?"

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