People in many parts of Mexico and Asia have been crunching critters for centuries. Now, in North America and the UK, a growing number of chefs are experimenting with these sustainable sources of protein in innovative ways. Check out these insect-focused spots.
If you’re skittish about food that squirms, try the Black Ant guacamole in which the ants are ground with chilies, spices and wakame. “They’re like walnuts,” says chef and partner Mario Hernandez. Insects sourced from various Mexican states are also on the menu here. Some dishes are seasonal, but you’ll find the guacamole as well as grasshopper tacos year-round.
At Market 707, a collection of retrofitted shipping containers populated by street food vendors, you’ll find Cookie Martinez and her Colombian snacks, which include her top-selling bugs empanadas made with a dough of corn flour and mealworm powder and loaded with vegetables and roasted crickets. You’ll also find spicy cricket spoons (stir-fried crickets, lemongrass and carrots) and cricket brittle. Martinez buys her insects from local Ontario farmers, including Entomo Farms.
Mealworm caviar and poached bees are among the insect-focused side dishes served at this popular spot, but veggie fans should opt for the love bug salad. It features a swarm of crickets, locusts and mealworms pan-fried with Thai spices atop their native habitat of wild leaves and flowers.
At their restaurant, the Lopez family serves many specialties from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, including grasshoppers (chapulines in Spanish). Here, the crunchy jumpers are sautéed in olive oil and served one of two ways: seasoned simply with salt and pepper, or garnished with jalapeños, onions, tomatoes, mild Oaxacan cheese and creamy avocado. Pair these dishes with a michelada—a beer rimmed with a mixture of salt and agave worms.
This small company specializes in modern versions of pre-Columbian Mexican snacks. Owner Monica Martinez farms her own crickets and mealworms and dresses them up with chocolate, toffee or chili lime seasoning. Her customers make a beeline for the crunchy toasted crickets enrobed in 85 per cent cacao Guittard chocolate. Find her packaged goods at various markets around the city, including CUESA’s Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market in the Ferry Building.