“Crickets are the most flavorful. Silkworms smell like grass, so they go well with the green tea flavor. Its texture is smooth as well.”
Ryu Si-doo (33), the owner of Ediblebug, said describing the tastes of edible insects. Graduating from Seoul National University with a bachelor’s degree in Economics and from Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST) with a master’s degree in Information and Media Management, Ryu developed an interest in edible insects while he was working in IT business.
When he first heard of edible insects as a protein substitute, Ryu thought it was only a theoretical scenario. He ordered an edible insect energy bar out of curiosity, which turned out to be “not so bad.”
“It wasn’t delicious, but I didn’t find it so bad either,” said Ryu. “I could find enough possibility of entomophagy as a food source rather than as a gastronomic choice.”
There are plenty of research results that support edible insect’s ecologic and nutritional excellence. They are high in protein, amino acids, minerals, and vitamins. For instance, protein contained in 100 grams of grasshoppers is 70 grams, which is approximately three times more than that in beef. In addition, edible insects are much more sustainable than other food sources, as they need far less water, food, and energy.
The problem, however, was the repulsion towards eating bugs. To overcome the psychological barrier, Ryu has offered homemade edible insects cookies for free since 2014, which increased the number of orders significantly. After giving 2,000 cookies away, Ryu made the decision to officially launch the business.
He opened a factory where edible insect cookies are produced and sold. However, as the location was rather difficult to access, only regulars would come. To make his products more accessible, he opened an edible insect cafe Edible Coffee in a busier district in Seoul. Many visit Edible Coffee without knowing that it’s an edible insect themed coffee shop, but most of them don’t react negatively.
Among their menu items, which comprise both insect and non-insect food, Mealworm Shake, a high-protein blended drink of 300-500 mealworms and milk, is the most popular. According to Ryu, customers find its taste familiar because it blends well with milk. Grasshopper Herbal Tea and Cricket Schmear with Bagel are also popular insect items.
“It’s not for money that I operate the cafe,” said Ryu. “I’m happy if more people can try edible insects through us. I can see that the barrier goes lower as people try more. I believe that the entomophagy market will grow bigger in the future.”
Original article by Song Jung
Translated by Heewon Kim