Expanding Your Palate with Grasshopper Tacos

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Caroline Grace Zemsky

“Chapulines” are filled with onions, cilantro, jalapeño, salsa verde and, of course, grasshoppers.

Caroline Grace Zemsky, Staff Writer

Toloache on Thompson Street is spicing up the typical taco with a strange ingredient: grasshoppers. Although grasshopper tacos, or “chapulines” in Spanish, are daring and unique, this popular spot is surprisingly not well known for its use of grasshoppers.

The concept of a grasshopper taco definitely seems frightening at first, but after a few bites the chapuline tasted like any typical taco. The tacos were served open, not folded, and were filled with about 20 full-bodied dried grasshoppers. Paired with onions, cilantro, jalapeno and salsa verde, the tacos promised to be explosive. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as crunchy as one might imagine. The taste was appealing, and it wasn’t hard to eat.

Although the grasshoppers were the key ingredient, it was difficult to discern exactly what they tasted like. They weren’t extraordinarily delicious, but they definitely weren’t bad either. The one deterrent, however, is the danger of the grasshopper legs getting stuck in your teeth.

Although the idea of consuming bugs is unfamiliar for many, insects are eaten around the world. To people from countries like Peru and Mexico, eating bugs — also known as entomophagy — can be a healthy dietary choice. For people who suffer from heart disease, insects can be their best option for protein consumption.

However, in western cultures such as the United States, eating bugs is not popular, and might only be seen on a show like “Fear Factor,” where the simple idea is enough to get people eliminated.

Biological anthropologist Dr. Julie Lesnik said that there are reasons for this aversion: Firstly, it is a cultural taboo. Insects are pests, they transmit diseases and people always try to remove them from their houses. In tropical countries, people learn to live with insects, and therefore are more content with the idea of consuming them; they are not invaders or threats. Additionally, it is very difficult for people from western countries to survive off of eating bugs, and meat consumers in most developed countries will not agree to consume bugs instead of pork, chicken or beef. Although eating bugs is not very popular in western cultures, eating insects is a great source of protein. It is also an environmentally friendly choice, since it is more sustainable than livestock.

Overall, the grasshopper tacos were daunting at first glance but the taste was not too shocking. These tacos are not for everyone, especially those who are fearful of insects, but Toloache has many other great options that don’t involve insects. For those brave enough to embark on it, this is a tasty adventure.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 6 print edition. Email Caroline Grace Zemsky at [email protected]