For years, we’ve been hearing about how in the future we’re going to feed ourselves with bugs. But really, that’s nonsense. People have been eating bugs for millennia, so it wouldn't be anything new. Many cultures around the world have been and are still very much aware of the high protein levels of bugs and have made them a part of their everyday diet. In addition, they’re really tasty and rich in flavor, making it a very popular ingredient in many cuisines across the globe.
It’s estimated that around 500 different species of bugs are eaten only in Mexico as a primary nutritious source since prehispanic times (I don’t even know that many kinds of bugs, to be honest). Originally considered to be typical food for the rural population, these delicious treats have had a huge resurgence in gourmet gastronomy to the point they’re some the most valued and demanded ingredients in Mexican cuisine. One of the most common and popular species of bugs used in basically any traditional preparation are chapulines (crickets). So, if you were wondering how Mexican cuisine uses this unique and peculiar ingredient, take a look at these cricket dishes that are really delicious.
This is a classic cantina snack: toasted crickets seasoned with salt and a bit of lemon. To make these, the chapulines are left soaking in water for an entire day. They’re perfectly dried to be cooked on a frying pan with lard to accentuate its unique flavor. They’re then served with corn tortillas to make a delicious taco. At some restaurants and cantinas, they come with a bit of guacamole and hot sauce.
This traditional dish, which is on my list of favorite comfort foods, is perfect for the fall and winter weathers. Here, chapulines are crushed and mixed with mashed boiled tomato, garlic, onion, non-spicy (or slightly spicy) red chilis, and chicken stock. To accompany the soup, you have to previously cut strips of corn tortillas from last day (they dry a bit and get a crunchy texture) and add it to the soup at the moment of serving. You have to add fresh avocado cubes, some fresh cheese, parsley leaves, a bit of sour cream, and more crickets to add more crunchiness and texture to the dish.
Chapulines in hot sauce
Here in Mexico, we call any stew guisado. The main idea of these dishes is basically anything soaked in sauce. We have a very wide variety of peppers, so there are many possibilities when it comes to guisados. A very popular modern option is actually accompanying your favorite meat with chapulines and a good sauce. Since chapulines are somewhat bitter and salty, the best sauces are those that balance out the flavor, like sauces made with tomatoes. These are eaten with corn tortillas (like tacos) or even as quesadillas.
There are so many traditional breakfast recipes. The most common ones are those that have…. sauce, of course! You can start off your day full of energy with some powerful and nutritious scrambled eggs with chapulines, some red sauce, and black beans for contrast.
As you might already know, corn is one of the key ingredients of Mexican cuisine. One of the most popular dishes made with corn are sopes, a thick tortilla covered in beans, diced onions, fresh cheese, cream, and sauce. You can either add some chapulines on top to give a slight flavor, or you can add them to the corn dough before preparing the sopes. In the latter, the crickets really enhance the flavor of the corn dough.
Last but not least, you can’t have a proper meal without some well-deserved dessert. In the past years, it’s become quite common to add these little friends to the art of confectionery. One of the most popular chapulin sweets is those coated in dark chocolate and other spices that give it a very peculiar and local flavor to both these prehispanic ingredients.
Chapulines aren’t only rich in proteins, they truly bring a unique and delicious flavor to food like no other ingredient out there. I get it might be a bit intimidating and scary to actually see the crickets on your plate, but I haven’t met anyone in the world who has tried them and hated them. They’re really one of Mexico’s best culinary treasures.
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