Planet Earth is crawling withbetween 5 and 10 million species of cockroaches. Most people hate cockroaches because they can spread salmonella, and leave trails of fecal matter in their wake. The proteins in cockroach saliva and waste can cause allergies and aggravate asthma. What’s worse, cockroach infestations are incredibly difficult to eradicate. In China, however, cockroaches are celebrated as a lucrative medicinal remedy.
The right way to eat a cockroach, according to cockroach farmer Wang Fuming, is to double fry them in hot oil.
"The second time makes the shell crispy and the inside succulent," 43-year-old Wang Fuming told The Telegraph, as he tipped a bowl of freshly harvested bugs, one or two of their legs still twitching, into the sizzling pan.
The fried insects are then ladled from the hot oil and sprinkled with an instant noodle mix, and maybe a pinch of chili. Their earthy flavor is palatable but that’s not why so many are lining up to purchase cockroaches.
"They really are a miracle drug," Liu Yusheng, a professor at the Shandong Agricultural university and the head of Shandong province's Insect Association, The Telegraph. "They can cure a number of ailments and they work much faster than other medicine."
Advocates say a cream made from the powder treats burns and a syrup made from cockroaches soothes gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis is inflammation of the stomach and small and large intestines, which causes vomiting or diarrhea. It's often called stomach flu.
Cockroaches in High Demand
Demand for cockroaches has soared in China, and for Mr. Wang, it’s now a good way to make a living. “We kill them before they reach four months old, because then their wings are fully grown and they can fly," he said. "They are very easy to kill, we take large vats of boiling water into the corridors and dunk the nests into them."
His entire stock is sold to pharmaceutical companies. "The pharmaceutical companies set the price, but I stockpile my cockroaches when the supply is plentiful to wait for when the demand picks up."
But before you decide to start harvesting your cockroaches and frying them up in oil, these are not the same insects that invade your home. They're a customized species of cockroach fed a special diet of vegetable waste.
Would you try cockroaches if you knew they would ward off the flu?