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飞蚂蚁:从天而降的墨西哥美食
A sauce made from flying ants

[2018年6月3日] 来源:BBC双语阅读 作者:苏珊娜·里格(Susannah Rigg)   字号 [] [] []  

“It’s like it is literally raining ants. They fall from the sky, and you can sweep them up into big piles and then toast them on the comal [a flat griddle].”


The sky fills with biblical-like swarms of these reddish-brown insects


Gabriel Hernández Cruz, a teacher who lives just outside of Oaxaca city in southern Mexico, looks forward to every spring after the first rains, when flying ants, called ‘chicatanas’, leave their nests and take to the skies. In the early morning, the sky fills with biblical-like swarms of these reddish-brown insects that have thick chunky bodies and large transparent wings. The rustle of their hastily flapping wings buzzes through the air.


Before dawn, families all over the state of Oaxaca head out to catch the ants, which are considered a regional delicacy. “They aren’t hard to catch,” explained Hernández Cruz. “They are slow and just fall to the ground, but all children love to run around and collect them.”


Every year when the chicatanas arrive, there is a feeling of excitement in the air. They only come for one or two days; it is partly the novelty that creates the buzz. Chef Ricardo Arellano, from a small town in Oaxaca’s La Cañada region, remembers eating these flying critters every year. "My mom would put them on memelas [a small thick tortilla usually topped with beans and cheese] or make a sauce,” he recollected fondly.


It is partly the novelty that creates the buzz


In the kitchen of Criollo, one of Oaxaca’s most exclusive restaurants part-owned by celebrity chef Enrique Olvera, I watched Arellano prepare his mother’s sauce. He started by toasting the ants ‒ wings and all ‒ on the comal, pushing them around gently with a palm brush. He then toasted avocado leaves and chile de arbol peppers before adding all the ingredients to a molcajete, a traditional Mexican pestle and mortar made from volcanic rock, with some raw garlic.

The sauce, which I sampled on a freshly made corn tortilla, wasn't smooth; it was chunky and rustic with bits of crispy ant and fragrant garlic on which to chew. It had a complex taste despite so few ingredients. The deep flavour of many insects that I have eaten often reminds me of a smoked cheese, and these ants were no different.


The eating of insects has been commonplace in Mexico since Mesoamerican times, although food scarcity and poverty has played a more contemporary role in dictating which communities chose to eat chicatanas in colonial times and even today. “When a mother is trying to feed her family and there is no food, these ants are a good option because they have a rich flavour and are high in protein," Arellano told me.

Once a food that was eaten in the family home and never found in restaurants, chicatanas are now sold for high prices to top-end eateries. Arellano purchased bags of live chicatanas for around 850 pesos per pound this year. They are a luxurious delicacy, only available for a couple of days in the year and the price reflects that.


Nowadays, a variety of insects can be found in Mexico’s high-end restaurants, and customers are seeking them out. Arellano puts this down to curiosity as well as an international gastronomical movement that sees insects as part of its future. Although levels of protein vary from insect to insect, and differ depending on how the insects are prepared, reports have shown them to have similar levels of protein per gram as beef. This, plus the relatively low environmental effect of consuming insects, has caused them to be heralded by the United Nations as the food of the future.


Still, the irony wasn’t lost on any of us that we were in one of Oaxaca’s most exclusive restaurants enjoying a sauce made with ants that for years were considered a food of the poor.


Making a sauce isn’t the only way to eat the ants. Some people simply toast them, then remove the wings and pop them in their mouths like nuts. Others only use the tails, rather than the whole body and wings like Arellano, and many squeeze out the white, fatty insides to make a creamier sauce. Some people also grind the chicatanas down and mix them with salt to make an accompaniment for mezcal, not dissimilar to the worm salt ‒ sal de gusano ‒ used throughout the rest of the year. At Pujol  Enrique Olvera’s Mexico City restaurant, he uses chicatanas to make a mayonnaise that he serves on baby corn, creating a contemporary twist on the Mexican street food, elotes.


It’s hard to predict whether the novelty of eating flying ants in high-end restaurants is just a fad or if we are witnessing the start of a greater movement towards regularly eating insects. But one thing is for sure: every year when the chicatanas appear, excitement will fill the air and families around Oaxaca will have their comals ready.

"这简直像是在下蚂蚁雨。它们从天上掉下来,你可以把它们扫成一堆堆的,然后放在平底浅锅里烤制。"


加布里埃尔·埃尔南德斯·克鲁兹(Gabriel Hernández Cruz)是一名老师,住在墨西哥南部瓦哈卡市(Oaxaca)外,每年春季的头几场春雨过后,他期待着被称为"chicatanas"的飞蚂蚁离开巢穴飞到空中。清晨,大群的飞蚂蚁在天空飞翔,它们呈红褐色,身体短粗,有着透明的大翅膀。它们急匆匆地拍打着翅膀,嗡嗡声萦绕在空中。


黎明前,瓦哈卡州的家家户户都会出来捉这种蚂蚁,它们是当地一种美食。"它们不难抓,"埃尔南德斯·克鲁兹解释说。"它们飞得很慢,最后会落在地上,所有的孩子都喜欢跑来跑去收集它们。"


每年春天,大群的飞蚂蚁在墨西哥南部瓦哈卡的天空中飞翔(图片来源:Education Images/Getty Images)

每年当飞蚂蚁到来时,兴奋的情绪在人群中洋溢。在它们光临的一两天里,这里会非常热闹。里卡多·阿雷洛诺(Ricardo Arellano)是一名厨师,来自瓦哈卡州拉卡尼亚达(La Cañada)地区的一个小镇,他回忆起每年享受这些会飞的生物时的情形。"我妈妈会把它们撒在小玉米饼上或者做成酱汁,"他甜蜜地回忆道。

克里奥罗(Criollo)是瓦哈卡的一家高档餐厅。名厨恩里克·奥韦拉(Enrique Olvera)是克里奥罗的老板之一,在厨房里,我看着阿雷洛诺做他妈妈曾做过的酱汁。先在烤盘中烘焙蚂蚁,烘烤它们的翅膀和身体,用棕榈刷轻柔缓慢地推动。然后,烘烤牛油果叶和迪阿波辣椒,再将所有原料放入用火山岩制成的墨西哥传统磨研钵中,并加入一些生蒜。


我将酱汁涂在刚出锅的玉米饼上,尝了一口;口感丰满质朴,还有蚂蚁的脆劲,嚼起来更有淡淡的蒜香。虽然原料很少,但味道却非常复杂。我吃的很多昆虫,最后的味道常常让我想起烟熏的奶酪,这些蚂蚁也类似。


墨西哥人自中美洲时代就开始食用昆虫(图片来源:Nikhol Esteras)

在墨西哥,自中美洲时代以来,食用昆虫就一直很常见,食物稀缺和贫困更能影响殖民时期甚至今天哪些墨西哥人选择食用飞蚂蚁。阿雷洛诺告诉我:"当一个母亲想要养活她的家人,又没有食物的时候,这些蚂蚁便成为很好的选择,因为它们风味浓郁,并且蛋白质含量很高。"

一旦某种食物在家里吃过,在餐馆里却从未出现过,那这种食物就珍贵了,飞蚂蚁目前以昂贵的价格出售到顶级的餐馆。阿雷洛诺今年购买了很多袋,每磅约 850 比索。它们是奢华的美味,一年中仅供应几天,价格也反映了这一点。


该地区的人们将飞蚂蚁扫成一堆,然后在平底浅锅里烘烤(图片来源:Nikhol Esteras)

如今,在墨西哥的高档餐厅可以找到各种昆虫,而食客们也在尝试各种昆虫。阿雷洛诺将其归因于好奇心以及将昆虫视为未来的一部分的国际美食运动。虽然各种昆虫的蛋白质含量有所不同,并因昆虫的烹制方式而异,但报告显示它们每克的蛋白质含量与牛肉相似。而且食用昆虫对环境的影响相对较小,因此联合国列为未来的食物。


不过,在瓦哈卡最高档的餐厅之一,享用以多年被认为是穷人食物的蚂蚁酱汁,多少有点讽刺的意味。


厨师里卡多·阿雷洛诺用蚂蚁以及辣椒和牛油果叶制作酱汁(图片来源:Nikhol Esteras)

制成酱汁不是吃蚂蚁的唯一方法。有些人直接烤蚂蚁,然后去掉翅膀,放在嘴里吃,就像吃坚果一样。有些人只选用蚂蚁尾巴,而不是像阿雷洛诺一样用整个蚂蚁身体和翅膀,还有许多人挤出白色的脂肪做奶油酱汁。还有些人将飞蚂蚁磨碎,混上盐,作为梅斯卡尔酒的辅料,就和搭配梅斯卡尔酒的虫子一样。在普若尔·恩里克·奥尔维拉(Pujol Enrique Olvera)的墨西哥城餐厅,他用飞蚂蚁做成蛋黄酱,用来搭配小玉米食用,为墨西哥街边小吃烤玉米赋予了当代新意。


很难预测在高档餐厅食用蚂蚁这种新鲜事是否属于潮流,或者我们正在见证一场更大运动的兴起,让食用昆虫变得越来越常见。但有一件事是可以肯定的:每年当飞蚂蚁出现时,到处洋溢着兴奋的情绪,瓦哈卡周围的家家户户都会将烤盘准备好。


由于出现时间短,飞蚂蚁已成为高档餐厅的美味佳肴(图片来源:Nikhol Esteras)

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