Chapulines Challenge: Crispy, Crunchy Critters

What people like to eat as a snack food varies wildly according to regional preferences and personal taste.  What passes for good eats in some places in the world is considered quite repellant in others.   Often, whether or not something seems tasty to you depends on what kind of food you had where you grew up.  Comfort food means a lot of different things to different people.

In Korea, for example, dog is on the menu.  Koreans consider it to be a delicacy, and there are restaurants that specialize in serving it.  There are even canine farms where certain species of dogs are raised specifically for the food industry.  In North America, thinking about eating dog is more than just unpopular.  It is considered downright barbaric.  Who would ever think about eating man’s best friend, right?

Peru is another great example of having ‘out there’ foods (by Canadian standards, at least).  In Peru people are known to dine on a meat called ‘cooey’.  In English, we’d call it ‘guinea pig’.  When roasted to perfection, Peruvians call it ‘delicious’.  In North America, you buy guinea pigs as cute, cuddly little rodent companions for the kids.   Not the kind of thing you would expect to find on the menu at high-end restaurants.  In Lima or Cusco, however, that’s just the way it is.

Shopping street in Peña de Bernal, Mexico

Which brings me to Mexico.  Living here has been quite the education when it comes to food, and snacks are no exception.  To be honest, finding things we like has been a bit of a challenge.  Even common snacks that sound familiar end up being something entirely different here.

When we first arrived, I was overjoyed to find that Doritos were commonly available, so we bought a big bag at the supermercado and took them home.  When we dove into that bag for our next movie night, we were in for a surprise.  The taco chips looked exactly like the ones sold in Canada, but the taste was entirely different.  They had a much stronger chili powder flavour, but with none of the sweetness.  They weren’t terrible, by any description.  They were just… unfamiliar.

Street scene in Mexico
Main plaza in Peña de Bernal, Mexico

One overwhelming commonality with all things snack-related here is that chili is king.  Pretty much any snack food you can think of is available in chili flavour on store shelves.  That includes everything from potato chips and candy to ice cream (I just saw mango/chili ice cream in Peña de Bernal earlier this month).

I don’t consider myself to be a picky eater.  In fact, I am willing to try almost anything, provided it is a real food.  Through the years I’ve had opportunity to dine on everything from rattlesnake and alligator to black bear and iguana.  Mexico, however, has a snack that tops them all.

chapulines in a bowl
Chapulines: Roasted grasshopper snack food!

It was this mindset that lead me to try a snack that seemed wholly Mexican.  I decided I simply had to try some chapulines.  It’s a food that has been on my bucket list ever since we started planning our new life in Mexico, so I’ve been watching for them since we arrived.

Here in Querétaro, this particular snack really wasn’t that easy to find.  Every region in Mexico has its own distinct specialties, and chapulines are more of a southern thing, or so I am told.  I’d been watching for them for months, but to no avail.  Finally, on a day trip to Peña de Bernal earlier this month, I happened upon a street vendor who was selling the salty snack!

Chapulines are roasted bugs, sold by the bag
Street snacks in Mexico. Roasted peanuts on the left, roasted bugs on the right.

There is no way to be delicate about this, so here are the facts.  Chapulines translates from Spanish as ‘grasshoppers’.  Probably because that’s what they are!  Roasted grasshoppers or crickets.  Typically they are eaten as a snack food with certain types of salsa and lime juice.

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right.

This is NOT typical snack food for Canada or the US, and for lots of folks, this won’t even qualify as ‘food’.  To some, this type of snack may register around a 9.5 on the weird-food-o-meter.  I get that.  To be honest, even a lot of Mexicans turn their nose up at the thought of eating insects.  (Bug sales for the vendor in Bernal didn’t seem too brisk for some reason.)  For me, this was one of those culinary ‘bucket list’ items I was eager to check off the list.

Mexican candies
Locally produced ‘dulce de leche’ sweets. Some prefer these snacks over roasted insects.

Just to be clear, Mexico DOES have snacks that are more similar to what we might find in Canada or the US.

Sweets, for example, are very popular here.  There are a number of really delicious candies and cakes available everywhere from supermercados to small road-side tienges.  Many of these are produced in-country and are usually much cheaper than imported snacks.

If roasted insects aren’t your ideal nosh notion, not to worry.  Whatever your snack predilection, Mexico probably has a sweet or salty snack to satisfy those movie-night cravings.   But for the truly adventurous, bring your appetite and an opened mind.  Mexico awaits.  Provecho!


4 Replies to “Chapulines Challenge: Crispy, Crunchy Critters”

  1. Hi Guil,
    You may want to try looking around one of the larger local liquor stores. My husband andbIbwere introduced to grasshoppers in the following manor… you know how in the US and Canada you lick the salt-drink the tequila-and follow up with lime? In Merida, they pop a tasty crunchy grasshopper -sip some mescal, and follow up with a slice of orange dipped into chili and ground grasshopper salt. Delectable! I think that is the order… Mmmmm so good in fact that we brought some home to accompany the Mescal we bought.

    1. Hmmm… Now that does sound intriguing. I actually haven’t tried Mescal. I know that I can’t stand the taste of tequila, but maybe this is different. Besides, if I am willing to eat bugs, I should be willing to try a new liquor, right? More research is clearly needed!

    1. Weeeeelll… To be honest, they were pretty salty. And oily. There wasn’t a whole lot of flavour, if I’m honest. To call them delicious would be a stretch. If I ate them with hot sauce and lime they might have been better. Will I seek them out? Probably not. Do they threaten the popularity of potato chips? Absolutely not. But hey… I can check them off the list now!

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