During my stay in Oaxaca during Easter week I had the opportunity to try several traditional dishes. One of the dishes that surprised me the most was a tostada prepared with maguey worms, grasshoppers, and chicatana ants. Eating cooked insects is something that has always given me equal parts pleasure and squeamishness. But beyond individual taste, many experts in nutrition and environmental protection recommend eating insects. Not only is it a healthy source of protein, but also something that could save the world from environmental collapse.
The livestock industry is the second most polluting after the textile industry. According to a study conducted by the University of Helsinki, replacing our protein sources from meat to ones of insects (along switching from dairy to plant-based milks) could reduce climate change, CO2 emissions, and excessive water use by 80%. The world’s population is growing exponentially and with it the demand for food. We are at a critical moment for the industry, as demand far outstrips supply, and this threatens our environmental balance. Insects have been on this planet long before us; they have survived and adapted to all kinds of situations, and greatly outnumber us.
But it doesn’t mean we can simply pick up any insect and put it in our mouths, as not all of them are edible and we have a ways to go before they are seen as palatable to many. Mexico is fortunate to be the country with the largest number of edible insects. We have 549 species and, thanks to our ancestors, the knowledge we need for how to prepare them. Today we can find many dishes using these ingredients, including Oaxacan delicacies like the one mentioned above. Even though eating insects may seem a bit unsettling at first, perhaps knowing their benefits for the planet and for ourselves will change our minds.
Below are some recommendations for places in Oaxaca where I have tried dishes with insects and would like to share them with you.
This is where I ate the tostada I mentioned above. Besides being made with natural colored corn, it is served with guacamole and pico de gallo.
Masea / La Atolería
Probably my favorite restaurant of the trip. For breakfast they serve an omelet with crickets that is not only delicious but incredibly satisfying.
Pasillo de humo
Although the meat and the tlayudas are the stars of the show, don’t miss the opportunity to order some insect appetizers: chicatana ants, crickets, and maguey worms.
Although I did not have the opportunity to eat here, I heard favorable reviews. The suckling pig tacos with chicatana ant mole come especially recommended.