Adventures in Chinatown: Cicada Soup

china town market

Clockwise from top left: sea cucumbers, kabochas, dragon fruit, and turtles. All within about 10 square feet.

I like to think that the seeds of my eating enlightenment were planted in Italy, where meals seemed almost religious.  They then spent the long, cold winter of college life deep underground, and began to germinate only after mom’s home cooking brought the warmth of spring.  If that’s the case, my Chinatown summer is what made everything bloom.

It only took one trip to Chinatown to forever change how I perceive food.  At every turn was another completely alien vegetable, another dead animal I’d never seen before.  I couldn’t read any of the signs, I couldn’t communicate with any of the people, and I couldn’t have been any more delighted. It’s when I first really felt that crazy bubbling-over surge of discovery.  I’ve been hooked ever since.

$2 an ounce? That's a steal.

Today, as always, being in Chinatown was like seeing it for the first time.  I walked the streets and browsed the markets, taking in all the weird stuff like a little kid staring at a giant caterpillar.  In fact, what I ended up purchasing wasn’t that far off: dried cicadas.  I’ll say that again: dried cicadas.  An ounce of them.  The moment I saw them I knew I had no choice.  “Besides”, I thought, “you probably can’t even taste them after a couple splashes of soy sauce.”  But when I asked the woman at the counter how to prepare the insects, her answer scared me straight: “Just cook with water.  That’s it.”  Huh?  No ginger?  No veggies?  “Just water, that’s it.   Cook for an hour.”  And that’s how I found out what was for dinner.  

cicada soup

yum!

Cicada Soup

  • 1 oz dried cicadas
  • About a gallon of water

Cook down the cicadas in the water for an hour.  Done.

Tasting the finished soup was an experience to say the least.  I roped my roommate, Matt, into it with me.  (Watch videos of our adventure below.) The broth wasn’t bad, I must admit, but the actual cicada was one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever eaten.  I knew I couldn’t possibly choke down a giant bowl of them, but I still didn’t want to give up on the experiment entirely.  I decided to go through with it by doctoring the recipe a little:

cicada

Looking at this still gives me the creeps.

Andy’s Cicada Soup

  • The soup from above
  • ¾ cup of milk
  • ¾ onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

I sautéed the onion and garlic, added it and the milk to the soup, and pureed the whole thing in the magic bullet.  The result?  Actually, not that bad.  A little grainy to be sure, but all in all it was a completely edible – almost enjoyable – bowl of soup.  Very reminiscent of cream of mushroom… just with little specs of bugs in it.

the finished product

Bon appetit!

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2 comments on “Adventures in Chinatown: Cicada Soup

  1. Matt says:

    Best part of these videos? Teenage Dream playing when Skubgirl was eating his cicada. Second best part of these videos? Watching you guys choke down cicadas. Let me know then next time you prepare something that filthy, I’m game.

  2. […] weeks ago – the same day I ate dried bugs – I stumbled upon another of Chinatown’s grotesque oddities: fresh partridge.  (Fresh, of […]

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