Also known as Simple Superstar, Wilbur Sargunaraj is a filmmaker, musician and Certified Cultural Intelligence facilitator. He continues to use his platform to create music and film to call attention to critical global issues of poverty, caste, exploitation and injustice while inspiring informed action. As Wilbur travels the world he has become convinced that the great challenges facing humanity today can be truly overcome only when we are willing to reject selfishness and ethnocentrism, enter the world of the other, and form sincere partnerships with those who may seem very different than us.
Join Wilbur Sargunaraj in a “First Class Eats” brand new series on cooking cuisine and CQ (Cultural Intelligence). In this debut episode Wilbur joins Khmer culture expert Mr. Mon Sinet in Phnom Penh central market to sample the many insects including the Areping (TARANTULA!). Indian Quotes interviewed Wilbur about his insect eating experience in Cambodia. Here are his great answers about the world’s most underestimated and misunderstood eating habit.
1) Hi Wilbur, what would you say to convince a non-vegetarian who has been eating chicken and fish, to try insects ?
Wilbur: I would tell my non-vegetarian friends to at least give it a shot! I believe half the battle is in just getting them to overcome their fear and bias. The insects are often fried with seasoning, spices and taste really good. It’s reprogramming our brain to overcome the fear of these creepy crawlies and what they look like.
2) In what way do you think having insects as a part of human diet will help the world ?
Wilbur: I suppose we use a lot of land to raise livestock, our oceans are overfished and crops are being threatened so turning to insects might be a first class solution! Insects are high in protein, fat, minerals and are very nutritious and are often available for many people who may not be able to afford meat like chicken, pork or beef. (I might be saying this but I would find it very difficult to make the switch! Just look at the Kdamtook and Tarantula! Aiyo!)
3) How many different insects did you try ?
Wilbur: You can see in the video…I tried only four but there are so many different insects that the Cambodians eat which I didn’t get around to trying! Four is plenty…thank you very much!
4) That’s a great number. How did they all taste ? Which is your favourite among them ?
Wilbur: All the insects were seasoned and fried so they were crunchy like chips and first class! Kdamtook (giant water bug) was sweet and tasted like it had a Teriyaki seasoning! Chong Ret (Crickets) were salty and tasted like a form of crispy bacon to me! I struggled with the Dok Doeu and swallowed it whole without chewing or breathing…so I sadly cant tell you how it tasted! It was so hard to bite down on a worm!! The Areping (Tarantula) had a sweet seasoning to it and I can say it comes close to a Tamil Nadu snack called Muruku! It’s all in the way the insects are prepared though! My favourite was the Kdamtook! Sweet seasoning and crunchy like teriyaki chips!
5) Since chicken is one of my favourite foods, I want to know which insect tasted close to chicken.
Wilbur: I don’t think I can compare any of them to chicken! They were more comparable to snacking items! If we really need to convince chicken lovers then maybe the Kdamtook because of that Teriyaki like seasoning and the Areping (Tarantula) but I think if I had them prepared in a different location it might have tasted different!
6) Which Indian city is most suited to have India’s insect restaurant ? Any plans to set up one here in India ?
Wilbur: There are so many species of insects across India that I am sure we can have a first class restaurant chain in every city! We can call it “WIL-BITES”! Just kidding I have no plans to set up a hotel that serves insects. I would be making enemies with my parents…they already don’t like the fact that I eat Sushi and all that raw fish !
7) I don’t mind insects as long as they are cooked well. Based on your travel experience, if I need to eat good quality and hygienically cooked insects, which hotel should I go to ?
Wilbur: Although entomophogy is practiced in various countries and places around the world, I would recommend you head to Thailand and Cambodia to sample big insect buffets in the main cities! Hit any of the insect markets at night. Remember that eating foods that are different than what you are used to helps increase your Cultural Intelligence and its totally fine to be honest and say to yourself “That was not first class at all”! It can be used as a stepping stone to facing your bias!
** Just to clarify I don’t mind eating fish and chicken once in a while but I’m much more of a Vegetarian these days!
– Thanks a lot, Wilbur. Eating insects is definitely on my list. I hope your attempt inspires more people to look beyond the meat options we are taught to look at as normal and usual food. Meat is meat and we are ready to eat!