Agave worm salt


The mighty agave should be Mexico’s national plant. You can use it to make tequila, mescal and pulque, and it can be used medicinally, but it is also the home of the maguey worm known locally as ‘gusano’. This little fella is served fried in tacos or added to bottle of mescal. It’s also ground up and mixed with salt to make ‘sal de gusano’. This worm salt is mainly used to salt rim the glasses that are used for mescal. That’s how I first tried it. The salt is visibly different. It has a deep red brown color. It tastes just like regular salt though. Perhaps this is an easy entry to the world of eating insects.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 6


Flying ant powder


If you visit restaurant Pujol in Mexico City, like I did last month, you go there expecting two dishes: The four year old mole and the baby corn dusted with chicatana powder. Chicatanas are a type of flying ant that are harvested in Oaxaca for only a few days a year. Chef Olvera serves them ground up and mixed in with mayonnaise to serve as a coating for the baby corn.

My fear factor is very low for an insect dish. That is simply because I knew they ants would be ground up and unrecognizable, and also because I trust this famed chef. The corn was super soft and tender, and had a beautiful taste with the sauce, a definite highlight of the meal. The ants, as suspected were hard, if not impossible to distinguish. I couldn’t taste anything, and I could barely see anything safe for a few lonely specks of black.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 8

Grasshoppers with guacamole


FullSizeRenderI was actually not sure if I should write grasshoppers with guacamole or guacamole with grasshoppers. At any rate there was a lot of guacamole and there were a lot of grasshoppers. Although they were so small they could have just as easily been crickets, which I suspect they were. Ah well, same difference really.

I split them with a friend in Mexico as an appetizer. We had both had scorpion before, so we weren’t actually that squeamish, hence the low fear factor. It was just the idea of eating them by the spoonful that was a little off-putting.

The guacamole itself was super fresh, not too heavy on the spice and not too heavy on the raw onions either. The grasshoppers might look unappealing, but actually taste alright. To be honest there isn’t much flavor to them, it’s more of an added crunch. My guess is they’ve been eaten for centuries as a way to bulk up on cheap protein, though these days chicken and pork seem to be the cheaper alternatives.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 8



Ant eggs


Out of all the unusual things things I thought I could ever eat, ant larvae were not on my list. It just never occurred to me you could eat them. Yet that’s what they do here in Mexico, and have been doing since pre-Hispanic times. They’re called ‘escamoles’ in Spanish and are usually translated as ant eggs, but they are in fact the pupae and larvae. Naturally I had to try.

They were served in small parcels wrapped up in leaves that resembled cabbages and tasted more like garlic. Eating the wraps, I could really only taste garlic, so I tried a bite of just the larvae. It didn’t actually taste like anything, which was both a relief and a disappointment. It had an interesting texture though, quite soft like goat’s cheese.

Fear Factor – 5 / Taste Test 6


Fried crickets


I wrote previously about eating scorpion here in China, but that wasn’t the first time I had tried eating insects (technically scorpions aren’t insects, of course). On a trip to Thailand two or three years ago I was browsing the local market in the town of Chiang Rai when I noticed a stall selling fried crickets. I was eyeing them out, but didn’t dare try. I exchanged some nervous smiles with a local girl who was thinking about buying some.

Later I came across another stall selling cricket, and low and behold that same girl was there actually buying a bagful of the little critters. She spotted me and held up her bag offering me a sample. It would be rude to say no, and it was a great chance to try without having to buy a whole bag, so I indulged myself.

I was surprised by how much I liked this local snack. There was no disgusting taste, which I was afraid of. In fact it didn’t taste like much at all. It was, as is so often the case, a textural thing. The crickets were crispy and crunchy, and with some added salt and chili reminded me mostly of potato chips.

I think that was my first foray into tasting the unknown. If I hadn’t taken that girl’s offer this blog might never had existed.

Fear Factor – 8 / Taste Test – 8



Fried Scorpion


Insects and arachnids are eaten the world over. It’s only in the so-called western countries that we deem it strange. Here in China it’s not as common to eat insects as it once was, but you’ll still find it in certain places.

The tourist markets in Beijing are filled with creepy crawlers on a stick, but in the southern province of Yunnan you can get a more authentic taste. I recently came across some of the more Beijing-style insects at a food festival in Lanzhou, where I live. My dish of choice for the day was scorpion.

There were small scorpions on a stick, and huge ones, but as I was with friends I went for the small ones so we could share. Everybody was bit hesitant, some very hesitant, but in the end we all agreed it was actually pretty good eating.

The scorpions were extremely crunchy, and had a slight savory and salty taste. There was no foul intestinal taste whatsoever. The fleshy part of the body had a slight chew to it like beef jerky. The whole thing reminded me of crispy fried chicken skin, crispy, crunchy, and salty. Darn it, I should have bought more.

Fear Factor – 6 / Taste Test – 9



Living in Holland, I would never have imagined eating snails, even if it has a fancy name and is baked with loads of garlic. When you’re on holiday, however, you tend to be much braver when it comes to trying out certain foods. When I went to Paris on a city break I found myself stealing a few bites of my friend’s escargots.

Being hesitant to try out different foods is often a mental thing. I mean, why would someone be happy to eat the meat of a pig or a cow, but be grossed out by the idea of eating the meat of a donkey. Knowing full well I can’t honestly say I dislike something without ever having tried it, I went ahead and took a bite.

To my surprise the escargots were not nearly as bad as I thought they would be. In fact, I rather liked them. The taste of the snails is masked by the herbs, butter and garlic, which is a combination I’ve always been drawn to. Snails will never become my favorite meal though, as there is a slight semi-rubbery texture that just doesn’t match my palate.

Fear Factor – 6 / Taste Test – 7