The other day I went to a friend’s birthday party at a fancy restaurant, and he ordered this dish from their “Festival de Bichos” (Bug Festival) menu:
Bugs are a traditional culinary specialty in Mexico, and pretty much year-round you can find street vendors selling “chapulines” (grasshoppers) in a range of sizes and toasted with salt, garlic, or chile powder (or all three). The first time I tried one of the microscopic baby crickets, whose tiny legs thankfully don’t poke into your tongue, I was grossed out. But over time their flavor (reminiscent of salty tomatoes) has grown on me, and now I love snacking on even the full-grown crickets with their scratchy legs and crunchy torsos.
However, when my friend ordered his extravagant bug dish, everyone at the table was a little put off by the sight of it. In the spirit of open-mindedness, he let us try everything that was in it: escamoles (ant eggs: a little like popcorn), gusanos de maguey (maguey worms: oily and flavorless; I had tried them smoked in Oaxaca and they tasted like grilled rubber), and chicatanas (giant flying ants: sharp and lemony). Once you got past the appearance of the dish, the overall taste was okay. I’d always wanted to try Mexico’s seasonal dishes with gusanos de maguey and escamoles, but they’re quite pricey (this rice dish was about $25 USD), so I was glad to have the opportunity to finally taste these famous insect delicacies without ordering an entire plate for myself.
I can’t say I’d be inclined to order any of it in the future, except of course some spicy grasshoppers and maybe some peppery ants on the side.