New Nordic Cuisine: Bugs

Michelin stars and bugs don’t make obvious allies in an award-winning restaurant. But Noma’s Head Chef René Rezepi is hoping to start a food revolution by introducing bugs to Western palettes. GNH graduate Tine Niklasson promotes gastronomic entophagy through her company Buggies. Why are world-leading chefs and enterprising GNH graduates so excited about eating bugs?

Copenhagen’s Noma has sat comfortably in the ‘Top Ten Restaurants in the World’ for years. When their Head Chef, and Nordic Food Lab co-founder launched ‘BUGS’ at Toronto film festival earlier this year, entophagy was placed on the gastronomic map. IKEA funded Space 10 Lab future forecasters also predict big news for bug-balls.

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Nordic Food Lab’s documentary film ‘Bugs’

GNH graduate Tine’s interest in entophagy wasn’t initially culinary, but from concerns about the impact of a growing global population on public health and environmental sustainability. Rather than limit herself to singing BandAid’s ‘Feed the World’ in the shower, Tine began a project about transforming health behaviours. Over 2 billion people worldwide include insects and bugs in their diet.

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Fried grasshoppers with spring onion and soy sauce

Termites on Toast is a common snack in Kenya. Cockroaches are found on menus in Japan, Thailand and Malaysia. Chapulines (or grasshoppers) are a popular Mexican snack with chilli and lime. Despite identifying as global citizens, many Westerners consider eating insects to be disgusting.

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Tine talks about Buggies at a Climate Conference

Buggies aspires to inspire Danes with how delicious and nutritious bug-based treats can be. Tine does this by sharing recipes and dishes at foodie events and festivals all over Denmark. But the importance of entophagy is also environmental. Documentaries like Netflix’s ‘Cowspiracy’ have brought the environmental threat of animal agriculture into public consciousness.

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Aerial view of the 2393 water balloons installation.

We’re aware that one beef burger wastes the same amount of water as a four-hour long shower. That’s an astonishing 2,393 litres. Traditional animal agriculture is one of the biggest threats to our environment as the global population grows, and meat consumption becomes more popular in India and China. Farming bugs is an alternative that meets human nutritional needs as well as protecting the planet.

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Site for the new Noma Urban Farm in Copenhagen. (Photo by Laerke Posselt for the New York Times.)

The environmental footprint from farming insects for food is very low. Insects are sustainably produced, protein rich, and they take up far less space than other types of animal agriculture. They also emit up to 50 times fewer emissions than other forms of animal agriculture.

The opportunities for culinary variation are huge, with over 1,900 known edible insect species, including beetles, caterpillars, bees, wasps and ants. Protein rich, many species also contain essential unsaturated Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids normally found in fish. The barriers to entophagy in the West are mainly cultural, so education and inspiration are the best ways to introduce the benefits of bugs.

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Danish meatballs, made with crickets. Image courtesy of buggies.dk

Tine introduces Danes to entophagy by doing just that. The recipe for Danish meatballs with Crickets is available on Buggies website. She shares ideas about entophagy through talks at a recent Climate Change Justice Conference, festivals, and workshops and discussions. Often, the biggest challenge is encouraging people to take their first taste of bugs. Making aesthetically pleasing dishes is integral to that. The response has been really positive so far, but Tine hopes to continue her work to reach as many people as possible, and contribute to the cultural and culinary revolution. What will you try first?

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