Cooking crickets is easy. You don't purge them like yabbies or de-vein them like prawns. You just take them from the freezer and throw them in oil for a minute.
Once seasoned, they provide a plate of chipolines, a crunchy Mexican bar snack that is being touted as the accessible edge of the new foodie frontier - eating insects.
Melbourne chef Matt Stone, from CBD zero-waste cafe Silo, has teamed up with horticulturist Josh Engwerda to grow and harvest their own crop of chirping, six-legged protein snacks. At this stage they are still experimenting, but the pair hopes to begin selling cricket-based snacks at the inner-city cafe by early next year - subject to approval from the health authorities.
Last week, Stone served up free tastings of edible crickets as part of a boutique cider launch at Melbourne's Bomba Bar. ''I just put them on the table … and didn't say anything and people just naturally started eating them. Everyone was really surprised,'' he said.
Stone serves crickets deep-fried and flavoured with native ingredients such as pepper and lemon myrtle. He also plans to make a bun made of crushed cricket meal.
While bugs have long had a place at the table in Latin American and Asian kitchens, six-legged snacks have only recently made appearances on menus in Australia. Prominent Sydney chef Kylie Kwong serves crickets and ants at her restaurant Billy Kwong.
I just put them on the table … and didn't say anything and people just naturally started eating them. Everyone was really surprised.
Deep-fried crickets may not be that healthy, but they are good for the planet, according to a 2013 UN report, which notes that cricket harvesting requires up to 12 times less feed than cattle ranching. It also concludes that insect harvesting can ''enhance food security'' by giving poor sections of society access to nutritional products.
The local crickets aren't free-range. Over the past six months, Mr Engwerda has developed an automated cricket breeding system that grows an orchestra of crickets from eggs to maturity in 40 days in a sterile tub, before they are euthanised in a freezer. ''What I was trying to do originally was come up with a way where in a very small space you could process large amounts of free waste … which you could then ship out as a food-grade product,'' Mr Engwerda said.
Mr Stone hopes Australians will get over any squeamishness and start eating insects. ''People eat things like prawns and oysters, which are pretty much the same thing but of the ocean, and it's considered a delicacy,'' he said.