“It’s a seasoning blend made with roasted ground cricket, sea salt and spices. Made by none other than myself. It works really well as a beer salt.” – Mark Nagy.
Mark – my man – you’ve truly outdone yourself! After my interview with with the Cadesky brothers about their mouth-watering bolognese sauce, I’ve been obsessed with products out there that normalize insects as ingredients. What better way to bring edible insects to the masses than in the trojan horses of foods we already know and love? …On second thought, trojan horses may be a bad comparison. These foods are not hiding their special ingredient – Nagy’s product is called Sal de CRICKET for goodness sake – but they are certainly changing the way we think about insects and food.
As a proud michelada drinker myself, I can confirm that Sal de Cricket does in fact work well as a beer salt. There’s something special about that “alcohol and insects combination” as well that really gives me a good feeling about this product.
One of my first memories with edible insects was in Mexico. I was at one of those hole-in-the-wall taco stands and asked for the chef’s recommendation. He said, “Mis tacos de chapulines!” Translation: My grasshopper tacos. I was sold. But this wasn’t the first insect he served me – he had earlier given me an ice cold beer served in a cup lined with red salt. Salt made with agave worm. I would have eaten the grasshoppers regardless, but I think the salt and the beer definitely smoothed the transition.
Let’s leave Mexico now and jet over to Asia. While Western societies are accustomed to seeing little bowls of nuts to snack on at bars, many Asian bars have little bowls of fried crickets! The crickets do the same job – satisfy that salty, crunchy, nutty craving that drinks like beer so often give us. It’s just a personal opinion of mine, but I think there’s a lot of synergy between insects and and nice cold brew. I’m glad that Sal de Cricket is bringing this to concept to America!
Mark Nagy was kind enough to answer some questions about his inspiration for the company and to tell us about what’s next for Sal de Cricket. So grab a cold one, have a seat, and take a read below!
How did you first get interested in edible insects?
My light bulb moment was while watching Survivor. Jeff Prost was talking about how the natives use mealworms as fish bait and that they also eat them if they get hungry. I set out to eat bug but at that time, in late 2013, there weren’t many options available.
What inspired you to make beer salt out of crickets? It’s such a unique product!
Sal de Cricket is an American take on Sal de Gusano. We use farmed crickets instead of the agave worm and also have boosted up the flavor impact and complexity. What I like about Sal de Cricket is that is taste really good.
Do you run Incredible Foods on your own? What’s that been like?
Yes it’s just me. It’s been great because I can work on the business at my own pace. My approach is to develop a sustainable business versus try to build a rapidly growing start up. It does have its challenges though; I would love to spend more time talking with people about edible insects and showing them how delicious they can be.
What was your biggest challenge in starting this company?
This biggest challenge has been trying to find a product that I would be able to commercialize and scale. I worked on a couple different products before making Sal de Cricket. The other products hit road blocks while trying to commercialize them. Another concern when I first got into insect cuisine was regulations. It wasn’t all that clear that it was ok to use insects as food. I have researched regulations quite a bit and feel like I can adequately manage business risk.
If you didn’t get swept into the field of edible insects, what do you think you would be working on right now?
Algal farming and processing is really interesting. Aquaculture, in general, is a rapidly growing field that has a lot of space for innovation. I would imagine that we will see more and better tasting algal protein bars.
Aside from your own product, have you explored consuming different insects? If so, what’s been your favorite?
I’ve tried most of the consumer products that are available. But, my favorites so far are sautéed wax worm tacos and tempura battered crickets. I think insects are best when they are direct from the farm, flash frozen then cooked.
What’s your favorite recipe to make with your beer salt?
Just a simple michelada recipe… a splash of lime and tomato juice, and then the glass garnished with Sal de Cricket and a wedge of lime.
Since you’ve made a beer salt, I must ask, what’s your favorite beer?
I enjoy Yuengling when I’m back in the North East. I have become a fan of Lone Star while in Texas as well as all of the craft beers brewed in Fort Worth.
You’ve turned insects into a very palatable product. Can you tell me a little about your views on how our industry should be looking to market insects to the masses?
I think flavor from insects is going to be a huge part of the next generation of insect products. We have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what chefs can do with insect cuisine.
What’s next for Incredible Foods? When the launch is and what are you most looking forward to?
Sal de Cricket is available for now! It’s available on my website (IncredibleFoodsCompany.com) and will also be available soon at EntoMarket. I’m working on developing new varieties of seasoning and possibly other types of products. The current focus is going to be on promoting Sal de Cricket.