Here we are:
If we are in Mexico, and at some point we want to go to the restaurant. But what can we find at the restaurant? Mexican cuisine is actually very different from the surrogates we are used to enjoying in Europe. Today I want to present a tasty dish typical of this fascinating country.
The maguey worm is not really a worm, but a caterpillar, and make their home in the agave plants. There are two kind of worms, white and red, both among the most prestigious insects consumed in Mexico and were once a vital source of protein for the Aztecs. The red and white worms are two different species that both begin their lives as larvae on the agave plant. If left to grow up, the white worm would become a Tequila Giant-Skipper butterfly, and the red variety a Comadia redtenbacheri moth. But often the larvae’s life is cut short by harvesters who roam the countryside in Mexico’s central states, searching for signs of the worms’ presence on the plants.
Then they sell their larvae loot at local markets, where there are already strings of dried maguey worms, hang like wreaths from banquets and overflow from baskets. Some worms even make their way into restaurants in Mexico City, where the best interpretations of the tasty dish can cost as much as $30.
In fact today, the worms are crispy fried snacks or succulent taco fillings, but chefs use also the maguey worms’ taste (sometimes compared to fried pork “cracklings”) to add flavor to mole, texture to rice soup, and a savory pop to tacos served in warm tortillas with guacamole. For people who might not be ready to consume a real worm, there is a smoky powder made from ground-up worms, salt, and red chile (sal de gusano) serves as a seasoning and is a perfect pairing with slices of lime and mezcal.
A curiosity….it’s possible see also a worm at the bottom of tequila! Usually is the red maguey worm, which found its way into the bottle in the mid-20th century as a marketing funny idea for selling mediocre booze.