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Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

So after taking the train to Cinque Terre from elsewhere in Europe, like from Florence, Pisa, or Milan, you might find yourself looking at your map and asking, what now? Here’s my guide to the top four... Read more

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Shanghai Snacks & Street Food: What to Eat

September 27, 2015

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<< back to foods in Mexico City

Escamoles, or ant larvae, from Fonda el Refugio in Mexico City.

What: Escamoles, or ant larvae, is a dish native to Central Mexico, once considered a delicacy by the Aztecs—insect caviar, if you will (their price today continues to reflect this high-minded status). As far as insect-related pre-Hispanic foods go, this one is better than it sounds. The light-colored eggs, harvested from maguey plants, resemble white-corn kernels or pine nuts; they have a poppy texture (more crunchy if fried) and a slightly nutty taste. Often pan-fried with butter and spices, escamoles can be found in tacos and omelets or served alone, accompanied by guacamole and tortillas. It’s indigenous, tasty, and memorable, without the gross-out factor (for some of us) of those fried maguey worms, another common pre-Hispanic insect food.

Where: We liked the escamoles on offer at Fonda el Refugio (Liverpool 166, map), a semiformal but homey restaurant in the Zona Rosa known for its wide range of regional Mexican dishes: think manchamanteles, mole Poblano, huachinango (red snapper) a la Veracuzana. Though generally seasonal (to spring/early summer), escamoles are available year-round here; according to our waiter, the restaurant’s suppliers are able to harvest from different regions.

When: Mon-Sun, 1pm-11pm

Order: The escamoles (250p) are a splurge, but they’re very nicely prepared here—pan-fried with butter, cilantro, and chiles; some of them really well-done and crunchy. The generous serving comes with guac and tortillas. We also loved the caldo Tlalpeño, another local specialty, and the potent but small margaritas here.

Alternatively: In el Centro, you’ll find escamoles on the menu at Los Girasoles (Tacuba 8, map); Fonda Don Chon (55-5542-0873; Regina 160, map), which specializes in pre-Hispanic foods (you might also look for wild boar, rattlesnake, venison with huitlacoche sauce, and deep-fried maguey worms); and Restaurante El Cardenal (three locations including Palma 23, map), where the larvae are served within a Spanish omelet at breakfast. And though it is a mezcalería with a Oaxacan bent, Corazón de Maguey (55-5554-7555; Plaza Jardín Centenario 9-A, Col. Coyoacán, map) offers a seasonal spring menu with lots of insect dishes, including escamoles.

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