The Origin: Mexico
Liometopum is a genus of ants from Mexico that shares a symbiotic relationship with the caterpillars of certain butterfly species. The caterpillars provide the ants with edible secretions in return for the powerful protection they affod. But the Liometopum ants are more famous for something else – Escamoles! This is a dish from Mexico that is sure to make your jaws drop down – either in awe or in disgust to spit out what you just put into your mouth. The cuisine is made from the larvae and eggs of this ant.
The wacky tinge
The Liometopum ant is not a friendly and small ant. It is a giant that is aggressive and bites off more than it can chew at times. These aggressive ants have a powerful bite and that makes the collection of their eggs and larvae a very tough job. The bite is also venomous and makes it all the more reason to keep away from the ant. But this inherent danger seems to add thrill and flavor to the dish that is made of the ant eggs and larvae. The ants burrow and house themselves in the root systems of the maguey and agave plants that grow in Mexico. It is indeed an unpleasant job to dig out the ingredients of the recipe from underground roots.
When it comes to taste, Escamole is slightly nutty and buttery. The eggs are about the size of beans. With a consistency that matches that of nutty cottage cheese, it is often eaten in a taco with guacamole with a liberal sprinkling of madness! Some people who have eaten it claim that it tastes like a mixture of bacon along with peanut butter. Some others claim that it tastes like corn. ( Why not simply eat corn then?) On the whole, the response towards the taste is indeed positive.
It is very hard to find a recipe for such wacky foods. But it is man’s ingenuity or sheer madness that has indeed found one such recipe. The ingredients required are as follows.
1. Liometopum ant eggs and larvae ( also known as insect caviar in some places)
2. 1/2 cup chili sauce
3. Pinch of salt
6. Onion ( chopped fine)
7. 1 lemon
8. 1 cup guacamole
9. 6 tortillas
10. Grasshoppers (optional for added taste)
The actual process of cooking Escamole is quite simple. Getting the main ingredient is the challenge. Also know that this dish can be prepared only in Mexico for you will not be allowed to carry the ants to your native country.
1. Without saying it goes that the eggs and larvae have to be washed thoroughly in warm water. After a good wash, dry them.
2. Place them in a large saucepan. Add the oil and fry them. Add garlic, lemon, guacamole and the chopped onions.
3. Adding grasshoppers will make the dish tastier according to some. You could also add some salsa into the mixture. Let the whole dish fry well.
4. Serve hot and see the dish disappear in minutes in case you have invited over Mexican friends. The mode of eating is with a spoon, while it is often served on the tortillas. The tortilla in this case is made up of thee eggs of many different kinds of aquatic Hemiptera which are Mexican caviar.
The ants are a rich source of proteins like almost all the insects. They also provide fat. Apart from these, they contain significant amounts of vitamins, minerals and salts. It goes without saying that larger the ants, larger are the stores of nutrients. Though these nutrients are obtained from escamole, it is not consumed only for the nutrients. The taste and the ‘kick’ factor that comes in eating something considered as wacky and dangerous also comes in. Since the escamoles cost about the same as Beluga and thus it is not very expensive.