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Nourishing, Perhaps; Nauseating, Definitely! E-mail
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Sunday, 12 August 2007

Nourishing, Perhaps; Nauseating, Definitely!

August 8, 2007 

By Ryann Connell

Japanese worm burger a fast food flop. . .

"Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I think I'm gonna eat worms," goes the old children's song most would know. But Fushigi Knuckles notes that a desire to improve the health of women and young children led one Aomori Prefecture company to come up with a worm burger filled with "big fat juicy ones, long, thin slimy ones, itsy-bitsy fuzzy wuzzy worms." 

Worms have long copped a bit of a raw deal among the general population, but the magazine says that some researchers label the invertebrates as the creatures making the greatest contribution to humanity.

Fish, of course, have long known the culinary benefits of worms, though to the peril of many; but in fact, during the 1970s and '80s, there were moves across Japan to try and get the slimy, slippery creatures on people's plates.

There was considerable research put into turning worms into meals fit for human consumption and development of worm dishes, with even large foodstuffs companies getting involved.

Worms do actually have considerable nutritional value, being rich in vitamins, amino acids and other substances said to be good for the health, including potassium, iron and zinc.

A company in Aomori Prefecture was the first in Japan, Fushigi Knuckles says, to try and commercialize worm food with its production and marketing of the "Worm Burger."

A 68-year-old man involved in the marketing of worm foods in Tokyo at around the same time recalls the heady days of chowing down on cestodes, nematodes and trematodes.

"You'd mince the worms, cover them in breadcrumbs and put them into a drier to create worm chips. There was worm sashimi, too. You'd wipe the dirt off with your fingers, dip the worms into garlic oil and eat them whole. They tasted great, with a light flavor and no really bad smell," the man tells Fushigi Knuckles. "Worm soup was delicious, too. You'd throw about 30 live worms into a pot, boil them slowly and end up with a broth that tasted a little like lemon. It went down well, and you could choose whether to give it a salt flavoring or soy sauce flavoring. Sprinkle it with black pepper or capsicum and it also had a wonderful taste."

Worms were also used in other dishes, such as tempura, or simply deep fried. Nearly all the sample worm foods were well-received. And that's what prompted the Aomori firm to bring up their Worm Burger.

Instead of a beef patty, the Worm Burger used ground worms, cut the onions a little, added wheat flour, a runny egg and blended in milk to make it go down easier.

The magazine notes that despite the best intentions, the Worm Burger ended up as a major flop. Marketers had been targeting women and young people, but appear to have struggled to overcome worms' image as a bizarre food. Nonetheless, Fushigi Knuckles notes, Japan is undergoing a health food kick once again and worms are worming their way into the interest of nutritiously minded Japanese who don't mind the idea of gobbling down slippery, slimy invertebrates.

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