Wednesday, July 5, 2017


Noon! We were sitting in the kitchen and talking about travels and somehow cockroaches got in to our focus. Anyone having travelled in the tropics or subtropics knows to tell a few stories about encounters with cockroaches.

If any creature should survive man made havoc it’s the cockroach. Some species of cockroach can reach a length of 9 cm. Cockroaches are social insects [1]. “Gregarious cockroaches display collective decision-making when choosing food sources.” Cockroaches can go without food for long periods and even live on the glue of wallpaper. Some nymphs survive frost. Some species may go without breathing for 45 minutes. And Wikipedia tells us, that “experiments on decapitated specimens of several species of cockroach found a variety of behavioral functionality remained, including shock avoidance and escape behavior”. As cockroaches may survive 6-15 times the lethal dose of radiation for humans, they might inherit the earth after a nuclear war. Maybe we are already on the brink of a nuclear war ("If we have nuclear weapons why can't we use them?") and would find out that the world’s leaders are brothers of Edgar the Bug [2].

Be warned! 
From here on, you will continue to read at your own risk!

Five Star Hotel in Singapore
I stayed in a very ritzy hotel in Singapore some when in the late 70ies. I had been travelling through South East Asia under conditions of lesser cleanliness. The hotel had been superb. They sprayed the corridors daily. But one day when walking to my room I saw cockroaches leaving a tray on the ground to escape into all kinds of crevices and cracks.

My friend’s roommate
I paid a visit to a friend’s room in the newly built TIYAC in Taipei (Tapei Youth Activity Center). And while we were talking about intricacies of the Chinese language, I’ve heard a faint scratching from behind a book shelf. I asked my friend about this sound and she replied: “Oh, that’s roachy, my roommate.”

A Drawer in Manila
Before visiting Yap, Truk, Pohnpei, and Palau, I stayed in Manila for a few days. I had booked a good hotel from Germany, because I was just starting my trip exploring the islands of Micronesia. I wanted to leave some papers in one of the drawers of the writing desk, but decided to better use my suitcase as the drawer was full of mummified cockroaches. I collected the cockroaches in an envelope, which I opened at the front desk, when I left the hotel for good.

The Giant Roach in Vava’u
One of my travels to the South Pacific had been to Tonga. I decided to take the ferry from Nuku’alofa to Vava’u. I took the Orange Vomit instead of the Floating Coffin as the two ferries were nicknamed. On Vava’u I had a humble room with a door that had an open space of 10 cm width at the bottom part of the door. One evening I saw a giant cockroach circling a light bulb in front of my room. During the night I’ve heard a scratching and even without light, I knew what was happening. This giant cockroach had entered the room and was trying to bite through the wrapping of plain cookies. I shooed the cockroach away and stashed the cookies in a tight drawer.
OT: I remember another evening drinking kava and sitting together with locals listening to music from the South Pacific, which was played and sung by three old men.

Two is Company
One of the summers when I’ve been working and studying at the Tri-Service General Hospital in Taipei, I was staying at the home of friends. They had a fan blowing fresh air into the apartment. Suddenly there had been a crashing sound as a cockroach flew through the fan. You might know the saying “that’s when the shit hit the fan”, but it was different. The cockroach landed on the ground in two halves. The larger half was trying to move away.

After a Tropical Downpour
Another time in Taipei, it must have been the late seventies or early eighties. I had been watching a movie in one of the theaters in the city center. In between I’ve heard loud thunder and the sounds of a heavy downpour. When I left the cinema the street had been under water and literally millions of drowning cockroaches were trying to escape out of the sewerage. But shopkeepers were battering on the cockroaches and spraying bug spray that was so toxic that these are forbidden worldwide today. Some cockroaches escaped, none the less.

How to Enjoy Roasted Roaches
One of my Chinese friends had studied medicine in Cologne. While visiting her in Taipei – she had become a gynecologist – we were talking about strange foods. And she told me about her brother, who was quite daring in this respect. Now, the Chinese ask you sometimes: 你敢不敢吃? Do you dare to eat it? Well, the elder brother caught some very small cockroaches and reared them. So these cockroaches didn’t have the chance to accumulate toxic substances. And then he roasted them in the wok. That was a couple of years before I decided to become a vegetarian. Back then I would have dared it, but he already had terminated the experiment.
Stir-fried Cockroaches (红炒蟑螂)
Heat the wok, add soy oil and a few drops of sesame oil, toss in a chopped red hot chili pepper and chopped garlic, stir for half a minute, then add the dried cockroach bodies, stir-fry for a minute, then add soy sauce, MSG, and just a little water, reduce heat, cover with a lid, let it simmer for 1-2 minutes, reheat and add chopped spring onions, stir-fry for another minute.
Serve hot and enjoy.



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