Suitcase and World: Los insectos. Chapulines y hormigos.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Los insectos. Chapulines y hormigos.

Y es! I ate insects and if I might say so myself, they were quite tasty!!

It all started with the chapulines or fried grasshoppers in Cholula.  A common snack food in Oaxaca, I came across my first batch in Cholula.  We had just exited the grounds of the Great Pyramid when someone spotted a young boy with a bucket full of them.  10 pesos for a small tin's worth and they were mine for the munching!!

Of course, it wouldn't have been fair for me to keep these delectable munchies all to myself so I held the bag open and offered everyone the chance to dip in.  As I had expected, Francisco did not hesitate and as expected, Ayşe and my brother were none too interested. Of course, I wasn't about to take "no" for an answer so I kept pushing until they caved in :-)

Delicately, they each reached into the bag and pulled out a single chapuline.  My brother's approach was to leave the chapuline on his tongue so I could take a picture to prove that he had it in his mouth.  Only after I took the picture did he swallow it. Ayşe just kept making faces.

I don't think either of them chewed their itsy bitsy morsel of insect.  Just shot it down the hatch so-to-speak.  The images I caught on my camera were absolutely priceless!!

For me, the chapulines were salty and crunchy.  Not a bad snack though they were a very tasty addition to a tamale.

Later on that night, we came across a street vendor in Oaxaca who had many more buckets of chapulines for sale.  She had different sizes and different flavorings.  With advice from Francisco, the chapuline connoisseur, I bought another two small bags worth but this time of much larger chapulines.  One bag was of chili flavored chapulines and the other was chili lime flavor.  The former were okay; the latter were simply addictive.  I couldn't stop eating them!!

I rationed my eating because Francisco told me that once we leave Oaxaca, there would be no more chapulines :-(

From all the pre-trip reading I had done, I had expected to see chapulines in Mexico. What I didn't expect was the next *delicacy* - hormigos aka ANTS!!

We were walking through the local market in San Cristóbal de las Casas when Francisco spotted the container full of the ants. At first, I didn't know what they were until I looked up close. They were ants indeed but not just any hormigo. They were oversized hormigos.....huge!!

I've since learned that these ants are
are a specialty of the state of Chiapas.

In early June of every year, males and females of the species fly in swarms as part of the mating process. After mating the males, which are known as *nucú air* fall to the ground and die. The females lose their wings and start to build nests and lay their eggs. The female ants, with abdomens full of eggs, are known as *nucú*. 

In Mexico, chapulines are farmed so they are readily available.  In contrast, nucú have to be caught in the wild.  According to the woman who sold them to us, they do bite and so, harvesting them is not an easy task.  That would explain why we only saw two vendors selling them and why they were far more expensive than the chapulines. Of course, no matter the price, I had to try them so I bought 10 pesos worth....enough for me and Francisco to snack on.

The hormigos were just fried with maybe just a tad bit of salt.  No other seasoning.  I think they could have done with a dash of chili and lime.

Not that I'm an insect connoisseur or anything like that but in  my humble opinion, the chapulines were a tastier bite and if I ever do get to go back to Oaxaca, you can count on me getting more of them.

Fun bites!