At the time of this writing COP26 is underway in Glasgow, Scotland. The big powwow has attracted a considerable number of grandees this year, many of whom chose to fly in for the conference, begging the question: don’t jet planes burn fossil fuel? In a nod of recognition to this international shindig, we have decided to write about crickets this week, specifically how one company’s cricket crackers pair with three different alcoholic beverages, beer, sake, and shochu.
First, some general comments about crickets. They are not fake meat. Their raising does not negatively impact the environment in any significant way. They have nutritional value, and they taste good. At least one of us at drinkingjapan.org has been eating the odd bug or two for many decades and is not a newcomer to such fare. Of course, there are cultures in which they have long been on the menu. The growing number of insectivores in Western countries and Japan is an encouraging phenomenon whose presence offers many opportunities for foresightful enterprises willing and able to accommodate their needs and desires.
We first heard the crickets chirping in the Japanese mainstream when we read about Ryohin Keikaku Co.’s success with cricket crackers. Ryohin runs the Muji chain. A recent article appearing in The Japan Times has the following to say about this product: “Cartfuls of the crackers sell out in about a week….”* Well, after reading this, we raced over to our local Muji and bought a bag (featured below with a zero carbohydrate version of Kirin Ichibanshibori).
We first tasted the crackers before imbibing the first beverage of the three, which was the beer. We found the mouthfeel to be quite pleasant and the taste to be akin to that of a potato chip, which is not surprising as the first ingredient listed is potato starch. The flavor of crickets was not immediately apparent to us, and, as the company uses cricket powder, there was no corporeal evidence of the insect. In other words, Jiminy doesn’t jump out at you here. We then tasted the crackers with the beer, which, as might be expected, is light and low in alcohol, 4% abv. The beer and the crackers went reasonably well together. Of course, salt and beer have long been friends. We then substituted a mass-produced nihonshu for the beer. The crackers and the sake did not clash, but the taste of the latter nearly eclipsed that of the former. The final pairing was with an imo (sweet potato) shochu, whose pronounced flavors muted the chirping. Conclusion: the cricket crackers go best with beer.
*“Cricket-based Foods Spring onto More Menus in Japan,” The Japan Times, October 8, 2021.