Cà Cuống: Giant Water Bug

The giant water bug is a highly prized delicacy in Vietnam. Known as “cà cuống” to the Vietnamese, the insect has a flat, leaf-shaped body that averages from 3.1 to 3.9 inches (8cm to 10cm) in length. It is a popular edible insect across Southeast Asia and a particular favorite in traditional northern Vietnamese cuisines. It is said that the taste of the cà cuống is comparable to shrimps, scallops and crabmeat. However, the value of the insect is found in a concentrated essence harvested from the thorax of male giant water bugs, which is a pheromone produced by the male to attract females. The cà cuống’s essence has such a strong aromatic flavor similar to cinnamon that a drop of the essence is used to give extra flavoring to local dishes. It is particularly added to “nuoc cham,” a dipping sauce eaten with “banh cuon,” the Vietnamese rice noodle rolls.