My mom made duck soup the other day. The recipe is simple: duck, water, wolfberry, and a parasitic fungus that hijacks the brains of insects turning them into zombies.
Wait. Hold up. What!? Yes, that’s right. The fungus is called caterpillar fungus or Cordyceps sinensis. This fungus belongs to a genus of 400 different fungi each specializing in infecting specific insects or other fungi. These endoparasitoids infect their hosts through spores, develop inside their bodies, and later explode from their bodies like aliens did from John Hurt’s stomach in Alien.
Mmmm. Yummy. No, my family is not crazy. At least not in this respect. Cordyceps sinensis is commonly used in Chinese medicine. It doesn’t taste like anything and is supposed to have lots of good nutrients. Why not?
Cordyceps infect insects ranging from ants to walking sticks. Check out this BBC video of an ant’s brain getting rocked by the fungus.
My mom only put the cordyceps fungus into the broth. Not the insects. The zombie bug carcasses are mad expensive. But you can buy a packet of cordyceps sinensis at your local Chinatown store for $5.