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Guest: Feasting on Bugs and Grubs
Singapore-style scorpions on a shrimp toast: a dish at the Typhoon Restaurant, Santa Monica
Care for some scorpion on toast?

Feasting on Bugs and Grubs
Story and photos by Mary McGrath

Meet Our Guest Writer

Mary McGrath is a freelance writer and photographer based in Los Angeles. As a teenager, she began her writing career as a poet, with her first book coming out in 1980 through Mudborn Press.

Although she spent the bulk of her waking life in advertising sales, she finally left corporate life in 2003 to pursue her love of writing, photography and music. Since then, her work has appeared in many national magazines, newspapers and on several web sites.

Some of her credits include: Newsweek.com, AOL, Good Housekeeping, Mexico Traveler Magazine, Curve Magazine, Rangefinder Magazine, After Capture Magazine, The National Lampoon and the LA Times. In 2007, she was profiled in the Wall St. Journal regarding her artistic endeavors after leaving the advertising industry.

As a travel writer and photographer, Mary enjoys soft adventure, and eclectic dining. Some of her more memorable excursions have included feasting on bugs, a shark and ray feeding, ballooning over Burgundy, and wild helicopter rides. She delights in bringing her destinations to life with her wide array of photographic images.

Beyond the arts, she enjoys working out, fine dining and watching at least 1-2 movies a day. She also dabbles as a composer and jazz vocalist, working with many gifted musicians from around the world.

dventure writer that I am, I’ve always been curious to try the unusual. This pertains to dining as well. I’ve sampled cuisine from around the world, and most of it would be classified as edible. But cuisine that’s deemed inedible is another story. It was time to try some insects and grubs.

My friends were in awe, amazed that I would even consider such an undertaking. I’m sure they had 911 programmed into their phones when I announced I was going to a local Santa Monica restaurant to test my courage.

the writer's friend dining on a piece of scorpion with chopsticks at the Typhoon Restaurant
My pal Erika dives into a scorpion

Strangely enough, in many cultures, bugs are a no-brainer. Throughout history, the popularity of bugs is widespread. Today, they remain a traditional food throughout many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

For example, both the Romans and the Greeks consumed insects. Aristotle knew quite a bit about cicadas, claiming that the males are better to eat at first, but after copulating with the females, the ladies taste better as they are full of white eggs. You go girl!

The Japanese often favor aquatic fly larvae sautéed in soy sauce and ginger. In Bali, they often rave about de-winged dragonflies boiled in coconut milk with ginger and garlic. Hmmm....talk about a wing and a prayer...

In Ghana, winged termites are often consumed during the spring rains, and are either fried, roasted or incorporated into bread. In South Africa, termites are utilized in cornmeal porridge.

Thai-style sea worms, deep-fried on top of baby lettuce leaves, with spices and accompanied with a tamarind dipping sauce
Delicious worms, also known as grubs.

Fire-roasted tarantulas are common in Latin America, and who hasn’t toyed with the agave worm, tempting you at the bottom of mezcal liquor in Mexico?

In fact, Americans and most European countries are in a minority when it comes to their consumption of these earthly delights. Apparently, after Europe developed into an agrarian society, insects were viewed as the culprit to crops. Can’t eat the enemy, I guess.

But we’re often conditioned against eating certain things. What child would dream of eating snails, frog’s legs or uni? But as the palate matures, tastes change. And now it was my turn to up the ante. How tough could this be?

a catfish dish at the Typhoon Restaurant
A tamer catfish.

So, we embarked upon a local place, rumored to have some of the best insects in town, the heralded Typhoon Restaurant overlooking the Santa Monica Airport. It’s a Pan-Asian place, featuring cuisine from countries like China, Korea, Thailand and many surrounding areas. It’s also one of the few places in town that serves grubs and bugs. Voila!

There they are, printed right in the middle of the menu. I had my first glass of wine to get me prepared. We began with the Taiwanese crickets, and they were quite tasty. They’re stir-fried and include raw garlic, chili pepper and Asian basil. Honestly, it was like inhaling a crop of potato chips, reminding me of having a picnic on the beach. So what if there were a few brown critters in the mix? They were crunchy, just like the rest of the dish. What’s next?

paper locust on the ceiling of the Typhoon Restaurant
Wouldn't want to tackle a bug this size!

Along came the Thai-style sea worms, deep-fried on top of baby lettuce leaves, with ginger, chile pepper, peanuts, lime, and accompanied with a tamarind dipping sauce. I love escargot, so maybe worms would be similar to snails. This was a beautiful presentation; the tangy little worms hardly a reason for squeamishness. The dish was quite hot though. If the worms weren’t already dead, that sauce would have demolished them for sure.

I’m still here, so let’s bring on the Singapore-style scorpions, which were smiling at me on top of shrimp toast. I had already visualized this one, pretending the scorpions were baby lobsters. I love lobster, and that fantasy seemed to work well, especially since I had taken another stiff sip of my cabernet before I looked closely at the little darlings Don’t scorpions kill people? What am I thinking? Then, the plate came, and in three bites, those little suckers were gone No stinger, no poison, just a good fishy-like sandwich. I think my gal pal Erika might have even used one of them for a toothpick.

We survived, and are here to tell the tale. I’d like to up the stakes next time when I have the opportunity to go for bugs. How about some large locusts, spiders or something else from a Stephen King novel?

Anyone care to join me?

For more information:

How to eat scorpions for survival

Cool bug recipes

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FEEDBACK FOR PATTI

I enjoy your newsletters -and particularly Patti Nickell's article about the 'Pudding Club' in the Cotswold's. An old friend of mine is taking a holiday there this year and plans to try their Jam Roly Poly and Spotted Dick - amongst many!

--- John & Maggie - UK

FEEDBACK FOR JULIO

The way I read this article, you stayed at the "Breeze and Waves". Do you have any pictures of the cottages, and would you recommend to some first time visitors to Caramoan?

--- Richard Simons, Stockton, CA

Hi Richard,

Breeze and Waves was still under construction when I stayed there in Feb. 2010. It should be finished by now. You can see pictures of the resort on this page. We got to stay in one of the small cottages in the picture. I'll recommend it to budget travelers but you might want to look at other options. We chose it because of its location right by the beach. You can try other resorts in the Caramoan town proper (you have to get a ride to get to the beach and the jump-off point to go island-hopping but it's a relatively short distance). There are also two higher end resorts located on a cove and very near the islands: Gota Village Resort (unfortunately there is something wrong with their website right now) and its twin resort Hunongan Cove. Caramoan is a relatively new tourism development so resorts are just now being built.

You can go to this site for a good list of choices for accommodations in Caramoan.

I should add that it might be good to go to Caramoan (and almost anywhere in the Philippines) during the dry season from December to May. June to November are the typhoon months and sometimes typhoons will still come during early December.

Julio

* * * * *

Hi, I'm planning to go to Caramoan this coming May. Would you know the number of Breeze and Waves Cottages? Thanks!

--- Ann, Manila, Philippines

Hi Ann,

Breeze and Waves' phone number is 0908-2911072. Look for Freddie. Hope you have a grand time at Caramoan!

Julio

FEEDBACK FOR WENDY

For Nature's Playground: The South Island of New Zealand

Hi Wendy,

In winter, Heritage Heights Apts. now offers free shuttle service to and from Queenstown 24/7 to guests without cars. We own a 7-passenger 4-wd Toyota Highlander used specifically to taxi guests up and down the hill during winter months. We also run advance purchase winter promotions which include a 4-wd rental.

If any of your readers head over this direction, I will enjoy extending Heritage Heights hospitality!!

Cheers

--- Ailey, Owner, Queenstown, NZ

* * * * *

New Zealand text and pix top drawer! Almost as good as making the trip. ( but one still wants to. . . ) Full of useful detail. Only trouble with the website: It's tough figuring out which feedback goes with which article, and the more there are, the tougher it gets!

--- Ken W., Camarillo CA

Thanks Ken..."álmost" is right, you really have to experience the South Island firsthand. Granted this piece is long, but still all I can think about is how much I left out! I agree abut the relevancy factor re the feedback--it can be confusing...sometimes I have a "Wait a minute...what?" moment myself.

Thanks for writing,

Wendy

* * * * *

Okay Wendy, from now on whenever you book your travel, please reserve space for me. I will carry your luggage, bring you cold drinks, massage your shoulders, and change the film in your camera (oops, I guess you don't have to do that anymore). Wonderful ideas and recommendations. Can you get to New Zealand from Boston in less than a week?

--- Carl A., South Easton, MA

Ha ha ha Carl, you're quite the comedian! But you'd be surprised how short that flight feels. I suspect Qantas isn't the only airline who's figured out that 3 movies, 2 full meals, lots of snacks and a complimentary travel pack (eye mask, warm socks and neck pillow) equals a quiet, well-behaved cabin. It really isn't bad. Just fly direct--pick the shortest flight w/ no lengthy layovers and you'll be fine. Re: signing on as my Super Sherpa...why not? I think you know I seldom travel in anything less than Party mode. There's just that pesky background check...

Thanks for writing,

Wendy

For Excellence Riviera Cancun:

Wendy, I truly enjoyed your info especially since we leave in a week to celebrate my 50th Birthday. Was it necessary to make reservations at the restaurants? Was there a dress code for the restaurants? What would you recommend not missing while there? Was the spa experience worth it? Did you travel away from the resort while there? Thanks,

--- Kim P. Fuquay, Varina, NC

Hi Kim.

Sorry for the delay in responding...you had heavy competition with the holidays. Reservations at Excellence restaurants are not necessary and you will not find a wait. The dress code is basically no bathing suits and flip-flops...with a decided a mix of atmospheres. Mostly the open-air beachside spots are super casual, the rest slightly more formal. Truly, as long as you are clothed, I don't think you'd be turned away anywhere, though most people seemed to enjoy dressing up at night...I suspect more for their own pleasure than any sense of decorum.

The spa experience was worth it, though my favorite part wasn't the actual massage. The precursor was a 45 min. or so rotation from sauna to a series of (kind of wild) water jets which was very different and very cool, not just for women. In its' entirety, and with the serenity of the beach/champagne/strawberries, it was memorable.

We did not travel away from the hotel this trip, but the hotel is very helpful in arranging day excursions to fit your desires and you do not have to book these until you arrive.

Have a great time!

--- Wendy

FEEDBACK FOR NINO

I enjoyed Nino's contribution, since we all read about the frightening terrorist attack. Having travelled somewhat through India years ago, I am continually impressed with this country and the gentle spiritual aspects of this nation. Some day I look forward to going back. Nino has encouraged me. Thank you!

--- Yoka Y., Westlake Village, CA

FEEDBACK FOR RUSH & CHUCK

Dear Mr.s/counselors Brown and Koro,

Thank you for a very informed and succinct article on motorcycle accidents and the law. It inspired me to think about getting a motorcycle, but not have an accident. But, if I do I am now well informed with the basics of what to do providing I do not perish in the accident. Any tips about that too?

--- Unnamed

Dear Rush and Chuck,

I wish I had read your article before our camping trip the Friday prior to President's Day.

My wife and I were in a car accident on our way to a camp ground. We were "rear-ended" and the impact caused our car to crash into the car in front of us. The contents of the truck that we were riding scattered onto several lanes. It's a miracle our two dogs decided to stay inside the car. My wife and I were shaken up badly but despite the mess, I was still able to walk out of the car. I got the license plate of the driver in front of me but, to my surprise, after reviewing the little damage on his car, he then sped off. I didn't know you could do that! The driver who hit me from behind gave me his information and then he too left the scene without saying good 'bye. When the police arrived all I had to go by was the little information I had jotted down which I hope was truthful. What if it was bogus? What if I had written the plate number incorrectly? How would that affect my insurance? What if we were unconscious, who would have written down all that information?

I do have one suggestion if you are injured in an accident. The police asked if my wife wanted an ambulance to bring her to the hospital but we declined the offer. I remembered when I rode an ambulance years ago that it was not a comfortable ride. I was strapped to the stretcher and there were all sorts of medical equipment dangling noisily above me. As long as you are able, it is a more relaxful ride inside a car. Besides, isn't there a fee for ambulance service?

--- Dave S. of Pasadena, CA



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