From "yuck' to "yum'

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Most people cringe when they see an insect, or squish it to pulp. Not many think "dinner." However, insects have been part of traditional cuisine in many Asian countries for hundreds of years.

Despite having grown up with insects on dinner plates, I can't imagine eating crickets, cockroaches, or stinkbugs.

But I make an exception for brown silkworm pupae. The worms are no stranger to me than chicken or beef, although I personally think they taste much better. Since my mom shares my tooth for silkworms, the bugs have been a staple in our kitchen for years.

When the sun shines bright in April, silkworm pupae begin to appear in local markets across Vietnam. The blond, crawling critters crowd flat bamboo baskets carried by street vendors. The creepy crawlies instantly summon the taste of fried, buttery silkworms, my mother's signature dish.

The bug, rich in protein and vitamins, is very popular in northern Vietnam where locals grow silkworm. Just like any other high protein food, some people can be allergic to silkworms.

Silkworm pupae can be quite fragile, and it is essential they be treated gently in the kitchen during washing and stirring. Also, overcooked silkworm can resemble mush with legs.

As the season of silkworms returns, try your hand at these recipes from my mother's kitchen:

Lemony silkworms

Ingredients:

200g silkworm pupae, lemon leaves, scallions, one tablespoon fish sauce, one tablespoon sugar, one tablespoon salt, two tablespoons cooking oil, 100g fried peanuts.

Directions:

Clean silkworms and leave to dry. Slice lemon leaves finely.

Heat cooking oil in a wok. Add silkworms stir gently. Cook over low heat for about three minutes. Add fish sauce, salt, sugar and stir gently until most of the liquid has evaporated. Finally, add lemon leaves and scallions. Garnish with fried peanuts and serve hot with rice.

Silkworm and green mango salad

Ingredients:

200g silkworm, one green mango, 1 carrot, some herbs, 100g fried peanut, and cooking oil.

For the sauce, add two tablespoons sugar, one tablespoon salt, half tablespoon ground garlic, and half a tablespoon of chili to fish sauce.

Directions:

Wash the silkworms and leave to dry. Julienne the peeled green mango and carrot, and blanch in boiling water.

Heat oil in a wok. Add garlic, silkworms, and salt to taste. Fry until the mixture is dry.

Toss the julienned mango and carrot with the sauce and fried silkworm. Garnish with fried peanuts and herbs. This dish makes an excellent appetizer.

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