Saturday, December 19, 2009

They Don't Taste Like Chicken

When I was in Oaxaca, about fifteen years ago, I was too sheepish, or chicken, to try grasshoppers. I finally ate them last month, in Mexico City, where they're not commonly eaten as they are in Oaxaca. But they're featured at Restaurante Bar Chon, which specializes in "pre-Hispanic cuisine." Chapulines are small grasshoppers that are toasted on a clay griddle with garlic and lime, and seasoned with sal de gusano (worm salt, a combination of powdered chile, salt and gusano--a caterpillar that lives off the agave plant). My little grasshoppers were served with guacamole and tortillas. They were a little crunchy in texture, but perhaps more like sawdust, and while the flavor wasn't at all vile, it didn't win my heart. The aroma was a bit musty and reminded me of the dried baby shrimp you see at Chinatown markets.

I also had a bowl of sopa de medula, which is made with marrow from the spinal column of cattle, served in a consomme. The medula itself had a kind of dumpling-like consistency, weirdly like matzoh balls. Interesting, but not wonderful.

My third item was a tostada with salpicon de venado. A salpicon is a shredded meat salad, but I didn't know the word venado. The waitress pointed to a painting of a man wearing antlers. I figured it was venison, not human, and later research bore me out.

The restaurant is in what appears to be a working-class neighborhood near the bustling La Merced market. Bustling is an understatement. The metro let me off right in the middle of the indoor market that was overwhelming to even a mild claustrophobe like me, and all the surrounding streets were an extension of the market. It took me quite some time, and several attempts at directions to find my way out of the market area to the street that would take me to the restaurant. On the way back to my hotel it was much easier and quicker to go in the other direction to a station that was technically about a third further than the market.

Restaurante Bar Chon has a large and interesting menu, and I'm sure much of it tastes better than the stuff you'd eat on a self-imposed dare.

There aren't many things I won't try once. Really there are only three I can think of: dog, monkey and poutine.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As you know, Pete, I loves me some poutine. Yes, it's messy and basically a heart attack on a plate but oh so satisfying in it's own way. I know you have an aversion to melted cheese but it's not like poutine is roasted koala. As a fan of food, you have a duty to try it at least once. And then you'll be primed to try lutefisk.

5:44 PM  
Anonymous Jimmy Cantiello said...

Apparently I clicked at the wrong time. The comment above was from me.


Jimmy Cantiello

5:50 PM  

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