by Jon Look (June 2012)
When the rainy season begins in southern Mexico, flying ants called chicatanas begin to leave their nests for mating. These insects swarm, often near street lights where they are captured and placed into plastic bags. Apparently they are very aggressive and have quite a painful bite. After they are collected they are washed and grilled on a comal, a metal dish that is normally used to grill tortillas.
The local indigenous people have been gathering and eating these insects since ancient times. Chicatanas are even mentioned in the 16th century encyclopedia of Mexican knowledge known as the codex Florentino, where they were referred to as "Tzicatana." Usually they are ground up with garlic, salt and chilies in a molcajete and made into salsa. They are supposed to be good salted with a little chile powder and lime and eaten as a snack with beer or tequila.
I have a pretty strong stomach and a definite joy of trying new things but honestly I couldn't really ever say I loved them. They had a crunchy texture and a slightly smoky flavor but the exoskeleton tended to get stuck in my teeth and there was a kind of weird, plasticy aftertaste. As a novelty they were enjoyable but the next time I am offered some I think I will decline.