Mopane worms are a traditional snack in South Africa, but this Cape Town restaurant may crawl into history books as the first to serve a full menu of bug-infused delicacies. The Insect experience, which opened its doors this month, is offering an alternative food source to the city’s mainstream culinary experience.
The restaurant was opened by Gourmet Grub, a company that has already introduced Cape Town to dairy-free ice cream made from insect milk. Co-founder and head of product development Leah Bessa has been investigating insects as a viable protein substitute. She says the insects are also high in dietary fibre and have no carbohydrate value.
Mealworms and mopane worms are some of the creepy-crawlies that chef Mario Barnard has included in his dishes. The bugs are bred by two local farmers and delivered straight to the restaurant.
He was inspired by a trip to Thailand where he experienced dishes made with tarantulas and scorpions. The restaurant serves mopane worm polenta fries, and black fly larvae chickpea croquettes paired with a mopane hummus and topped off with a sprinkle of dried mealworms.
For dessert, it offers a deep-fried dark chocolate black fly larvae ice cream. Many insects used in the dishes offer vital minerals as well as proteins. It’s an alternative to meat that may just keep the doctor away.