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People with bold appetites might want to try eating cicadas

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The cicadas are coming.

(SOUNDBITE OF CICADAS CHIRPING)

FADEL: So we've got some buzz about expanding our culinary horizons. Two broods of bugs that are on 13 and 17-year cycles are about to emerge from the ground simultaneously to populate trees and sidewalks stretching from Illinois to Virginia. They're considered food for birds and small mammals, and Joseph Yoon says they're also good for humans with bold appetites.

JOSEPH YOON: It's delicious, and it's fun.

FADEL: Joseph Yoon is a chef advocate for the U.N.'s International Fund for Agricultural Development.

YOON: We can't reasonably expect to create behavioral change with a sense of, like, the rhetoric of doom and, like, the world's going to end, so we have to eat insects. So I like to go, hey, these are really delicious and fun to work with, and it's also sustainable.

FADEL: He's also a founder of Brooklyn Bugs, and he joins us now. Good morning, Chef.

YOON: Good morning, Leila. Thanks so much for having me.

FADEL: Thank you for being here. So cicadas - when I was hearing about the two broods, I freaked out and thought I need to move. And then I understand, actually, no, we can just make some delicious things out of cicadas. Are they tasty?

YOON: They sure are tasty. And so I love to think about how we can prepare them in manners that will be a little more acceptable for who's going to be eating. And so just say we were to tempura fry a cicada adult. They've been living underground, slowly feasting on plant and tree xylem for 13 or 17 years. And so they have this really beautiful vegetable quality and a nutty quality as well. And so when you deep-fry them, they're just, like, so delicious and so special. Really, a big part of cooking with insects and cicadas really lies with our imagination and thinking about how can we add these arthropods? If you think about it, we're already eating arthropods like shrimp and lobster and crab. And so these are really just their water cousins, if you will.

FADEL: But it's a delicacy in some places, right?

YOON: It is indeed a delicacy in many areas. And this idea of, like, addressing food security - there may be regions around the world that can forage and collect insects for human consumption, but when we're really talking about food security, we're talking about the rearing and husbandry, the farming of insects on mass scale to be able to produce and then to be able to utilize. And the reason why it's so sustainable is that it takes far less resources by way of the amount of water, the feed, the land, and it creates far less greenhouse gas emissions than the counterpart livestock that we're traditionally using today.

FADEL: Do you have some favorite recipes?

YOON: My all-time favorite recipe utilizing the adult cicadas is a tempura-fried cicada.

FADEL: I like a deep-fried anything, to be honest.

YOON: I know.

FADEL: Maybe this will be my conversion, the deep-fried.

YOON: I do a little extra chefy (ph) thing, and I ferment lentil beans, and I add cricket powder, and I make my own gluten-free version that also utilizes cricket powder for my tempura batter. But you can use, like, any classic tempura batter that you like that utilizes all-purpose flour, a little rice flour, a large egg and also ice-cold sparkling water, which will, like, really help create a light texture that you really want in this sort of tempura. Most people, when they eat it, they're like, oh, this is - this tastes so delicious. And that realization - 'cause I've fed tens of thousands of people cicadas now - it's like a light-bulb moment where they're like, oh, my gosh, this tastes like food, and it tastes delicious.

FADEL: Where did you find this passion for this type of cooking?

YOON: This is so fun - like, to think about how we can create a new paradigm and a rubric shift in how we understand insects to change the perception from insects as pests or a vector against good agricultural practices to something that can be utilized as edible insects, something that's sustainably farmed or harvested for human consumption and that could be also utilized for insect agriculture.

FADEL: Chef Joseph Yoon is an edible insect ambassador. Thank you so much, Chef.

YOON: Thank you, Leila. I really appreciate it.

FADEL: By the way, people with shellfish or insect shell allergies should check with a doctor before eating cicadas.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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