Grasshoppers! Cactus! Smut!


When I started this blog last month, I outlined a few of the upcoming adventurous meals and projects that I was planning to try.  On Tuesday, at one local restaurant, I was able to knock several off of that list in one go and have a great meal with friends to boot!
The restaurant, Tu Y Yo, is a Mexican fonda specializing in traditional Mexican family recipes, mostly from Oaxaca, a Mexican state known for its diverse population and a cuisine that fuses pre and post-Columbian methods and ingredients.  My five dining companions and I had come to sample some of the more – to the Northeastern American palate – eclectic offerings on their menu.
We started with what was probably the most adventurous dish for us – the tacos de chapulines.
Tacos de Chapulines

Chapulines are a favorite snack in the central valleys of Oaxaca.  They are grasshoppers, caught, cleaned, and roasted in spices.  Since they are only available from May to early autumn we were lucky to be able to order them!  The tacos at Tu y Yo came with pasilla (the red sauce) and tomatillo salsa (the green).  I tried my first bite with the pasilla and was overwhelmed with smokiness.  The other sauce was less overpowering, but my overall impression of the tacos was crunch followed by soft, vague nuttiness.  I’d eat the grasshoppers again, but would like to try them on their own, I think, to judge them better.  I was proud of everyone for eating their share, however, especially since two of our party have fairly serious bug phobias.  We congratulated them for facing their fear by eating it.

Our other appetizer was the Crepa de Cuitlacoche en Salsa Poblana:

Crepa de Cuitlacoche en Salsa Poblana

Let us observe the innards’ startling blackness:
Smut

Cuitlacoche, also spelled as huitlacoche, is better known in the US as corn smut.    (The name cuitlacoche may mean “raven’s excrement”  in Nahuatl.  I think I prefer smut.)  It’s a fungus that attacks corn in a similar manner to ergot in wheat.  It is also seriously tasty.  The flavor, appropriately for a fungus, was very similar to the best kind of mushrooms – that meaty funk.  The crepes were served in a lovely green poblano sauce that was mild and salty, with hunks of queso blanco thrown in for good measure.  This was a table favorite.

My own dinner was the really tasty, though not particularly adventurous, Cochinita Pibil, which is sort of a Mexican pulled pork.  I’d wanted the Tortitas de Puerco, which were described as “Pork cakes served in a prehispanic sauce of xoconostle (cactus fruit)” but alas, they were unavailable.

Cochinita Pibil

My beverage was some very pretty hibiscus water.
Jamaica Water

I also ate bits of everyone else’s dinner, which included:

Cactus paddles stuffed with cheese – delicious.  How could it not be?

Frog’s legs – Weirdly chewy, and oddly fishy.

Steak wrapped around cheese – this had the best description on the menu.  Like the cactus paddles, delicious because beef and cheese is pretty predictably delicious.

We also had every dessert on the menu.  I split the Pastel de Nopal, which is cactus cake covered with tequila cream.  It was very much like a dense zucchini bread, studded with nuts.   It was tasty, but not transcendent.    More exciting to me was Cafe de Olla, which is Mexican style coffee.  Brewed with spices and brown sugar, it is nothing like how I enjoy my morning coffee – I like it unsweetened and with cream – but it was a lovely coda to the meal.  And the earthenware cup was so cute!

Mexican Coffee

At the end of the night, I felt like this adventure was a rousing success, not only because we successfully ate bugs and smut, but because it was such a fun, communal event.  It sounds hokey, but the joy really was in sharing the experience with people whose company I enjoy.  To that end, a big thanks to Roel, Garth, Jess, Elise, (who has better pictures than mine on her blog!) and Dan for joining me in this crazy scheme.  Thanks too, to the staff of Tu y Yo, who were very gracious in accomodating a large group of people intent on photographing their food.

I hope that as I set forth on completing some of these other adventures that more of my friends and family will join in!  Project: Durian is looking for takers!

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9 responses to “Grasshoppers! Cactus! Smut!

  1. Ah, but your blog…much better written!!
    The Goog and I are in for Project: Durian!
    It really was a great evening.

    • Not better written, just longer. 🙂 I am a tad long-winded, but so much happened! I didn’t even MENTION the cybersex with 500 guys! I will put you and The Goog down for Project: Durian. That one will need reaction shots, I think…

      • It’s true, you didn’t mention the cybersex despite the “smut” title!
        I would try sweetbreads again…I say again because I tried them once when I was young, my dad let me think it really was bread!
        Looking forward to some veggie therapy too.

  2. Looking over your list, I would like to get in on the sweetbreads action. I really want to try more offal.

    • Cool! I might make some polls to see who wants to do what in a more formal way, as well as one to sign up for Vegetable Therapy. Now we just have to decide: sweetbreads at Tango or at Craigie?

  3. Thanks for helping me fight my bug phobia by making me put them in my mouth. Also, yea durian! I have been on-line though and I think for the best of the best we have to go to Malaysia. Who’s with me? Also, re: sweetbreads I have had them at Craigie and they were a bit…chewy. Is that the norm?

    • You’re welcome. Thank you for coming with us and fighting the fear.
      Malaysia, you say? I’m down, but I draw the line at harvesting them ourselves. That way lies death! Alas, I have no idea what the sweetbreads SHOULD taste/feel like. Only time and experimentation will tell. It’s just one of the list of offal I have yet to try. Also included: Heart – I’m thinking Brazilian for that one

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