I believe the last time I willingly ate bugs was when I was five and didn't know any better. So, how did I find myself in my twenties ordering grasshoppers to share as an appetizer with my fiancé while dining at Hugo's?
In certain countries, bugs and insects are delicacies, such as fried centipedes and locusts in Beijing, spiders in Cambodia and the Witchetty grub in Australia. In America, we tend to step on our bugs more often than we toss them in a frying pan to serve for dinner. However at Hugo's, grasshoppers, or chapulines, are pan-fried and served with guacamole, blue corn tortillas and a spicy chipotle tomatillo salsa.
I have always seen the chapulines on the appetizer menu at Hugo's, and admittedly have been curious to try the little buggers, but could never bring myself to actually ordering them. In fact, the one time I almost ordered them, I was informed they were sold out; I saw it as a sign to not have them.
The other night, though, my fiancé and I agreed to take a whack at trying these fried grasshoppers. If it didn't turn out well, we would just feast on the blue-corn tortillas and guacamole and sip on our margaritas, because we sure needed something to get us through eating bugs.
The platter of fried grasshoppers, guacamole, salsa and tortillas arrived. Just as I expected, the bowl of chapulines literally looked like a bowl of bugs, but the additions of sauteed onions and wilted greens made it more of a "dish" in my opinion. We asked our waiter the proper way to enjoy the grasshoppers, and he informed us "by the spoonful" was his preferred method. But, if we couldn't stomach that, he said to coat the small tortilla in guacamole, place a spoonful of grasshoppers onto the tortilla and top with the spicy salsa. Sounds harmless, right?
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Once my first soft grasshopper taco was assembled, I took a bite. Crunch. My taste buds were instantly hit with the oil used to fry the bugs, the tangy guacamole and the spicy salsa. While I expected the creamy guacamole and salsa, I did not expect the incredible flavor from the grasshoppers. Who knew little fried bugs could taste so good?
Chef Hugo Ortega enhances the grasshoppers with sauteed onions, wilted greens and a spice mixture I can't quite put my finger on, but it's awesome.
All in al, this was a dining experience I never thought in my wildest dreams I would have ever had. From the waiter asking us, "How are the grasshoppers?" (words I never thought a waiter would utter), to my eating the bugs with only guacamole, this was one of my craziest culinary endeavors and I am so glad I mustered up the courage to order the chapulines.
As soon as you get the past the fact that you're eating bugs you are accustomed to squashing with your shoe and that their little legs get stuck in your teeth, you'll definitely appreciate the salty and oily fried insects. Coming from someone who can't bear to watch Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, you should trust me and order the chapulines at Hugo's. After that first bite, you'll be eating them by the spoonful.