Fried hornets and tomato soup

Huge apologies that it’s taken me so long to put up a new post. S and I have been back from Bhutan for just 5 days and it feels like we haven’t even begun to catch up on all the work that’s piled up while we’ve been away.

Our trip to Bhutan was, as I’ve said before, simply amazing. It’s a truly stunning, gorgeous and unique place. And while it’s a country in the midst of some pretty amazing transitions, I have faith that the folks in charge will ensure that its culture and natural beauty will be respected and protected.

While I love so many aspects of this magical kingdom, the one aspect that I’ve never been a huge fan of is its cuisine. When I first visited Bhutan back in 1996 (years before all the fancy-shmancy hotels opened up), I traveled across the country for a couple of weeks. Frighteningly, at almost every meal, I was served the same dish — emadatse and rice. Emadatse is considered by many to be Bhutan’s national dish. It’s a powerful, super-spicy curry made with cheese and chillies. At brekkie, I was offered cold rice and emadatse. Lunch and dinner was hot rice with some edatatse. After that visit, I came to the belief — shared famously by Ruth Reichl — that Bhutanese cuisine might just be the worst in the world.

On this most recent trip, however, S and I were served two home-cooked Bhutanese meals, one cooked by my friend’s wife and the other by a friend of theirs. While emadatse (to my slight horror) was served at both meals, so too were many other local dishes, many of which were surprisingly very good.

But of all the local treats that S and I tasted and enjoyed during our trip, the one that I have to admit I actually enjoyed the most may actually have been the most bizarre. Before lunch with our friends on our last day in town, my buddy’s wife asked if we’d ever eaten hornets. I think I answered something like, “Um… sorry, what? Did you say hornets?” She had. And served us what she explained was a local delicacy two ways: stir-fried with garlic, shallots and ginger and smoked. The stir-fried hornets were delicious. Crispy, spicy, full of yummy meaty flavors. Of course, it was only after S and I had devoured a full serving of the fried hornets, my Bhutanese buddy whispered to me that he actually doesn’t eat the things himself.

Hornets aside, the very best thing I ate in Bhutan was a simple Indian soup served at Uma Paro. In fact, all the very best things I ate during the trip were at Uma Paro. The chefs there are simply fantastic, offering their customers a wide range of Western classics, fusion dishes, Bhutanese specialties and Indian fare. Two night in a row, I opted to eat Indian. On both occasions, I had the Tomato Dhania Shorba as my first course. This tomato soup was simply stunning, made with the freshest ingredients and prepared beautifully. I’ve begged the chefs at Uma Paro to share their recipe and am running it below. Please note that it’s been written in “chef-speak”, i.e. it’s a tad brief and perhaps not even accurate. I plan to try making it later this week and see if it actually works or not. If any of you try it out, I’d be keen to know how or if you tweak it.

Uma Paro Tomato Dhania Shorba

300g tomatoes
20g coriander leaves
250ml vegetable stock
1 whole red chilli
1 bay leaf
5g peppercorns
1g asafoetida
3 cloves garlic
1 inch of fresh ginger, crushed into a paste
salt to taste
2 tsp vegetable oil
5g cumin
1 pinch Kasoori Methi powder
cream

Make a stock of tomatoes and the stems from the coriander.

Add the vegetable stock.

Blend when the tomatoes become soft.

Temper with ginger paste, garlic cloves, asafoetida, crushed pepper, whole cumin, and the red chilli.

Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and and some cream.

Add a pinch of Kasoori Methi powder before serving.

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his two kids!

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18 Comments

  1. Babeth 4 December 2007

    oh weird the bugs on the plate … not sure I will and can try that …

  2. joanne 4 December 2007

    I’m going to pass on the hornets also. Telling me, that I can eat those darn things that try and make nests in my house could be a good thing as they are a nuisance, but the fear of catching them, and somehow cooking them without being bitten is more than I can handle.
    The best thing I do when I am eating something local. Let the host surprise me, and don’t ask what it is until after I have chewed and swallowed the bite. Better yet, blind fold me also so I have no prejudgment on the visuals.

  3. ColinHo 4 December 2007

    Goodness me. The hornets tasted meaty? Interesting cuisine but definitely not for the faint hearted or for those with a weak stomach. I’d like to try some, someday.

  4. V 4 December 2007

    For a moment there I thought you were sharing the recipe for hornets! 😀

  5. Joyz 4 December 2007

    Hey CH & S, you both are brave, brave people. Reminds me of Andrew Zimmerman on Bizarre Food…that guy eats everything (but amazingly passes up on durians)!

  6. susan 5 December 2007

    haha that recipe is super chef speak. i’ll wait til you make your version. 🙂

  7. sugarlaws 6 December 2007

    hornets! you are brave. but i guess that’s what traveling is all about, right?

  8. Pete 6 December 2007

    I tried bee larvae in Guangzhou, but they looked very mild next to your hornets! Your insect meal sounded scrumptious though. Please keep your photos coming in!

  9. Nan 6 December 2007

    Wow. Hornets. I’m all in favor of eating game and wildlife, but I don’t think I could eat these! You guys are braaaaave!

  10. wheatlessbay 7 December 2007

    I wouldn’t be surprised if even the “unsmoked” hornets were also ever-so-gently ever-so-briefly smoked, as an easy way to dispense with hornets in the first place. I’m just guessing at the harvesting techniques involved, which must be a little trickier than those of, say, the mopane worm in Southern Africa.

    My big question would be, “what remains of their venom at the end of cooking?” Or was that the spicy bit?

  11. Helen Yuet Ling Pang 9 December 2007

    I also thought your recipe included the hornets, until I scanned your ingredients list. I’m going to add you to my blogroll just for this great dish! Thanks for sharing…Helen Yuet Ling

  12. neil 10 December 2007

    I had some silk worm pupae a little while ago and they were just horrible (from a tin). Maybe full grown bugs are tastier, the other ingredients sound okay…

  13. Courtney 10 December 2007

    Wow, I like to consider myself adventurous and open minded about food but not sure I could deal with the fried hornets!
    Great blog!

  14. James T 10 December 2007

    now Hornets are just about the only bug i’ve not tried yet… where’d you think in singapore i can get it???

  15. Thomas Gilbert 13 December 2007

    Wow, hornets i wish it was me that tried this, i love to try special stuff like this around the world, so next trip on the list will Bhutan.
    Thanks for sharing this great post..

  16. Paula from Only Cookware 14 December 2007

    I would be willing to try the hornets. When I was in Bangkok they were selling crickets in the street stalls. As it was our first day we decided to come back at a later time to try them. Unfortunately they were no longer available. Apparently they only make them after the rains when they are easier to find.

  17. Hannah David 6 July 2010

    I applaud you for your courage, but this is something that I will stay far away from.

  18. Pete From Best Food Processor Reviews 7 January 2011

    Wow, now I’ve seen it all. I would never in a million years think that you could eat these. Imagine serving these up at a dinner party 🙂

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