Mexican cuisine has the characteristic of being packed with not so common flavors and textures. This is usually because of the mix of ingredients used, which go from sweet like chocolate, to the sourness of limes or even the spiciness that you can feel on your lips like the one from habanero chili. We do however sometimes have some ingredients that can make more than one feel surprised or even a little disgusted. Timon and Pumba would describe them as slimy but tasty and although they are not slimy, they sure are tasty.
I mean if you visit Mexico one day, you might suddenly be surprised that we eat a variety of INSECTS! It's not uncommon to see that the guacamole has chapulines -grasshoppers- in it or that someone is eating a taco full of maguey worms. And fine, the reality is that they don't look very appealing, even many Mexicans don't dare to try some of these flavorful little critters - I admit it! it took me a long time to do it myself - but once you try them you might just discover one of your all-time favorites.
We will learn today about a variety of insects that are regularly eaten in Mexico.
The first -and my favorites- are the chapulines which is the name in spanish for grasshoppers. It's possible that when you see them, the only thing you will think of is them jumping and how their little legs will feel on your tongue, but the truth is that once you have them in your mouth it tastes like crispy chips with chili and lime.
Chapulines are generally most popular in states such as Oaxaca, Chiapas, Hidalgo and the central valleys of Mexico. You can normally find them in the street markets, where you can choose them in different sizes and already seasoned with garlic or chili and lemon. Many restaurants all around the country also offer a variety of dishes with this amusing ingredient.
Escamoles are not an insect per se but they were on their way to becoming one, they are ant larvae. They are considered a seasonal food because they are harvested in the months of March and April, and although it might sound easy to collect, each nest takes at least 5 years to achieve a good production, which is why they are known as the "Mexican caviar". Dishes prepared with escamoles usually have very few ingredients, since their flavor is usually very subtle. If i still haven't convinced you to try them, then you should know that besides their unique flavor, they also have a very high nutritional value as they have a high protein content, up to four times more than meat.
Maguey worms are really the image that comes to mind when someone mentions that word. They are white, about 5 centimeters long, plump and with a little brown head. More specifically, they are the larvae that lives inside the agave plant and are quite difficult to collect. Generally, there are only three to four maguey larvae per plant. Therefore, they are considered a delicacy and are usually a bit expensive.
Preparing a meal with these worms is very simple as they only need to be fried in animal fat or oil and eaten in corn tortillas with a little guacamole and salsa.
This type of ants is a little different from the normal black ants that we see everywhere, they are a larger and reddish brown type of flying ant that are found during the rainy season, between May and July. The ideal time to collect these ants, according to experts, is during the first heavy rain of the season, when they decide to leave their nests. These little animals are generally roasted and eaten alone -or they are grinded and used to make sauces and moles that obtain a smoky flavor thanks to this excellent ingredient.