May It Please the Palate: Bugged by Food Trends

By Nick Roumel

I was checking out 2015’s predicted food trends, and practically spit out my mouthful of fried Sriracha grasshoppers. That’s because the next food craze is supposed to be insects. As reported in Time¸ the president of “food trend consultancy” Culinary Tides predicts that insects are a-buzz for 2015. Suzy Badaracco said, “Insects draw on not one but three food trends: the growing interest in foraging, the invasivore movement (i.e., don’t kill them, eat them), and, the granddaddy of current trends, the desire for more protein.’ (Insects are protein powerhouses; grasshoppers, for instance, have about the same protein content as a chicken breast).”

The New York Post reports that the "Grass-Whopper," a burger with pan-fried crickets, is already creating a swarm of customers at Antojeria La Popular, a Mexican restaurant in SoHo. The crickets are pan-fried and topped with soft, white Chihuahua cheese, which helps bind the insects into a patty. (They initially used beans instead of cheese, but the chef determined that “overwhelmed the smoky flavor” of the crickets.)

The restaurant features a cloud of other bug dishes, including toasted crickets on a blue corn tostada with guacamole. “Crickets are Mexico’s caviar,” boasted the owner. Another spokesman chirped, "It's ridiculous. People are coming from everywhere to try it."
One diner was not so sure, commenting, “It has a gritty texture. I felt legs.”

The remainder of 2015’s expected trends are a bit more pedestrian. Locally-sourced meats and vegetables will continue to shine, with vegetables taking on a more prominent role. Cauliflower is tabbed to contend with kale and Brussels sprouts, even replacing meat in dishes like “steak” and cauliflower parmigiana. Vegetarians will explore protein alternatives to soy, such as peas. And move over quinoa: millet is the latest grain superfood. What the heck: it’s worked for birds all these years. Perhaps in 2015, humans will finally be able to achieve flight. This will make it easier than ever to catch bugs for dinner.

Thankfully, some of 2015’s trends include actual food. These ramen-crusted chicken wings are an example of a “mash-up,” or combining familiar ingredients that aren’t usually used together. This recipe is from the amazingly named Charisma Madarang of Foodbeast:

Ramen-Crusted Chicken Wings
1 lb. chicken wings
For the dry batter:
2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
For the wet batter:
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup vodka
1 packet ramen seasoning
2 packages Top Ramen, crumbled
1 qt vegetable, peanut, or canola oil
For the dipping sauce:
1 tsp Sriracha
2 TBS rice vinegar
1 TBS scallions, finely chopped

1. Rinse chicken wings in cold water, and pat dry.

2. Mix together dry batter ingredients in a bowl, and set aside. Mix together wet batter ingredients in a separate bowl. Break apart the dry ramen into a third bowl. You want the pieces to be small enough that they will stick to the chicken but large enough that they still have their shape.

3. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or electric deep fryer to 350°. Line a half-sheet pan with paper towels.

4. Working in small batches, dredge the chicken wings in the dry batter. Shake off any excess, and dip the wings in the wet batter. Brush off any excess batter with a food-safe brush.

5. Fry the wings for 5 to 6 minutes, turning occasionally for even browning. Let the wings drain on the paper-towel-lined half-sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining wings.

6. Dip the par-cooked wings back in the wet batter, and brush off any excess batter. Coat the wings in the crumbled ramen.

7. Fry for an additional 2 to 3 minutes or until the outside has browned and is crisp.

8. Meanwhile, mix together the Sriracha, rice wine vinegar, and scallions. Serve the wings hot with the dipping sauce.

Assuming you’ve used locally sourced chicken, this dish is trendy-times-three – along with the mash-up and fashionable Sriracha.
Throw in a cauliflower-millet salad, and you’re a veritable pacesetter.

It’s a complicated recipe, though. Might take a few tries to work the bugs out. The vodka may help.