Not sure what to feed the adventurous foodie who’s tried everything from bugs to rotted shark meat? Three Japanese businessmen have an idea for you: Crackers made from Bathynomus giganteus—a.k.a. the creepy-but-also-kinda-cute giant isopod.
It all started when a TV celebrity came aboard Kazutaka Hasegawa's boat to do an interview. The fisherman, who caught hagfish, often pulled up giant isopods as bycatch and would toss them back into the ocean. But when the celebrity asked if the isopod was edible, Hasegawa decided to roast it. Not surprisingly, the crustacean—which is related to the terrestrial pillbug—tasted like shrimp and crab.
Not long after, Hasegawa met Satoshi Yamamoto, of the Tokyo-based advertising agency Ozone Network Co., who was hoping Hasegawa could provide fried isopods for a deep sea-themed New Years' bash. After their meeting, Yamamoto brought prawn senbi to take home to Tokyo—and realized that it might be easier for people to buy and eat giant isopods if they were in cracker form. He reached out to Kiichiro Isobe, sales manager of Yamaki Kaisan, a company that makes prawn crackers, and the trio decided to try to turn giant isopods into crackers.
They began experimenting in January, and at first, things didn't go so well, according to The Japan Times:
First they tried crushing them into powder without adding any flavor. This was not a success. Because the bugs are omnivorous the smell of their organs was simply too pungent.
Eventually, though, the trio figured out the right ratio of seasonings to powdered isopod to make some very tasty crackers, which are now available at rest stops, gift shops, and aquariums across the country. A dozen crackers cost ¥1,620, or $260; the first run of 3500 boxes sold out in just a month.
Hasegawa is hopeful the crackers will take off. “I don’t want this to be just a fad,” he told The Japan Times. “I want to make this a Yaizu specialty.”