Silkworm pupae – A special food in Vietnam


It’s undeniable that many Vietnamese enjoy eating a range of insects. The critters are local specialties but may seem a little too ‘creepy’ for the uninitiated. However, with the enticing aroma of a freshly fried bug, who knows, you may be tempted to take a bite after all…

The most common insects used as food in Vietnam are grasshoppers and silkworm pupae.

About Silkworm pupae

Even more popular than grasshoppers, silkworm pupae were widely consumed in Vietnam. Roasted silkworm pupae are enjoyed by many Vietnamese people as the dish contains lots of nutritious protein.

The country’s nutrition experts say that the dish, rich in protein and minerals, is good for children as it can prevent malnutrition and is important for the development of the body. It is also good for those who suffer from kidney disease or arthritis.

The silkworm is the larva or caterpillar of the domesticated silk moth. Silkworm pupae are silkworm in the preparation phase, turning into butterflies to lay eggs.

Silkworm pupae via BUGSfeed

The sericulture — the practice of breeding silkworms for the production of raw silk– has its origins in China where it has been practiced for almost 5,000 years. It spread to Vietnam and some other Asian countries.

Many villages in North Vietnam were famous for raising silkworms with mulberry leaves and harvesting cocoons to make the natural silk.

The silkworm pupae are very popular in the local markets. From the market, pupae are washed, dried, and then mixed with salt. The silkworm pupae will be fried with oil and fish sauce.

How to make it

Lemon leaves were cut into tiny strips and mixed into fried pupae to add more taste to the dish.

“The first time I ate silkworm pupae was one year ago in a restaurant in Hanoi. Well, at first, I was afraid of eating them but then I wanted to try as I was curious. It was much more delicious than I first thought,” says Laura Carle, a Swiss teacher in Hanoi, laughing.

“In Switzerland and I guess, in other western countries, it is absolutely not on the menu. So why don’t we take advantage of our time in Vietnam to taste some original food,” she says with a big smile.  

Food specialists are encouraging people around the world to think about eating insects – an excellent source of protein. Although you may be creeped out at first, hundreds of Vietnamese can’t be wrong. Why not give it a try? 

Silkworm pupae via Wikimedia commons

Nutritional Superfood

Something seems wrong about the nutritional label on the back of the package of Con Nhong. It says a serving is 43.6 calories with 35 grams of protein. If protein is 4 calories per gram then that would equate to 140 calories per serving. Other web sources for nutritional data are for the canned version which is loaded with unhealthy cottonseed oil. Regardless of the calories, this food is a protein powerhouse.

By comparison 100 grams of ground beef (75% lean) yields 16 grams of protein. Each package is 454 grams, which I don’t know if it is considered dry weight. Even if you cut the number in half that is well over 100 grams of protein for about $3.50. Pretty impressive. This is serious Paleo.

Please visit our website to explore more about Vietnamese cuisine.