Ants on the menu for May – up for it?
by Diana Pastor
Every country has certain culinary delicacies for those with more demanding & adventurous tastes, and who are hungry for new dining experiences. Well for those of our readers who fit this profile – you’re in luck as for the month of May we have a special recommendation for those of you who enjoy something that’s light on the stomach but heavy on the palate. It’s a special kind of ant, although much larger than normal & with wings. They are called the Zompopos de Mayo, as they start appearing in large numbers during the first rains of the year which we will be seeing this month.
Zompopos are usually brown but some can come in darker shades. They are pretty large as far as ants go, with a huge head, & when they are alive they are quite strong, being capable of carrying large leaves or enormous chunks of food in comparison to their size. But there is also a group of medium-sized Zompopos, which are responsible for carrying out the more menial & less demanding tasks in their nests.
So is this unique Guatemalan snack prepared & served? First of all we remove the Zompopos wings before toasting them in a pan. Once they’ve become a golden colour this means that they will be nice & crunchy and ready to eat, so we just add some salt (as no Guatemalan dish would be complete without a hefty addition of salt). Some people also deep-fry them.
The tradition of eating Zompopos actually goes back to our indigenous ancestors – who consumed them in large quantities due to the enormous amount of protein that they can contribute to one’s diet. So we can stay that it was the chosen snack of our grandparents.
It is curious that in the different Mayan cultures, the Zompopos have a special name. For example in Quiche language are known as mox. This is a very interesting choice because the word mox is also used to describe a crazy person. In the Quiche culture all insects that appear to fly aimlessly from side to side are called mox. But do ants fly like this? These ones certainly do: they have very thin wings & so sometimes it looks like they are drunk when they are flying around.
The first and only time I tried this curious ant snack was a couple of years ago. They have a deep and somewhat strong flavour. The person who gave them to me told me they have an especially delicious flavour when they are freshly roasted.
In Xela it’s a little more difficult to find this unique snack. But on market days, if you ask around you will most likely be able to find some. The cost of one pound is around Q100, although that will get you a whole lot of ants. & we recommend the investment in order to give this little insect a try.