New York City is crawling with some of the most exotic dishes that feature bugs.
One of the Philippines’ favorite appetizers is “tamilok,” which is a woodworm, or shipworm. It is a mollusk that is often found burrowed in dead wood in the mangroves of Palawan and Aklan. These long, strange-looking worms are best eaten as ”pulutan,” accompanied by beer. They are usually prepared as “kinilaw,” similar to Peruvian ceviche, served raw with a splash of calamansi juice, chopped onions, garlics, chili peppers and vinegar. With their creaminess, sliminess and jelly-like consistency, they taste exactly like a saltier version of oyster.
Despite its unappetizing appearance, the tamilok is actually quite nutritious. It’s rich in trace elements, including iron, calcium and vitamins A and B12. It’s high in protein content and only contains 110 kcal per serving. If you’re on a diet, tamilok is probably something you want to take a look at. Some people also believe that it is an aphrodisiac like oyster. Such belief is not without scientific evidence. Tamilok is actually a rich source of zinc, a trace element that improves the production of the hormone testosterone.
If you are really curious about how worms taste, you do not need to travel around the world to search for bugs to eat. New York City has plenty of options for bug-eaters to try out.
Korean restaurant Pocha 32, located at 15 W. 32nd St., serves bundaegi, which means silkworm larvae in Korean. This dish is prepared either in a hot chile-soy saute, or in a vegetable and anchovy broth served bubbling hot in a crock pot. With tough skin and rubbery, earthy textures, they could be easily mistaken for mushrooms.
Playground, located on 71-30 Roosevelt Ave., offers authentic Thai cuisine, including grasshoppers, silkworms and red ant eggs. The grasshoppers and silkworms are fried and covered by a mixed soy sauce on the exterior. The red ant eggs are served in salad mixed in red onion, cilantro, scallion, mint, fish sauce, lime juice, toasted uncooked rice and chili paste. Playground is known as one of the best Thai food restaurants in the area, but you need to come prepared for the spiciness. Besides that, it is a five-star place for date, for a great Thai meal and for trying bugs.
Black Ant, located on 60 2nd Ave., serves traditional Mexican food with a modern bug twist that you can’t miss out on. One of the speciality dishes is Tlayuda con Chapulines, a crunchy tortilla filled with ginadu, queso de rancho, chile de agua salsa and piled with sauteed grasshoppers. A plate called Maiz y Tierra brings vegetables, purees and flower petals — made to resemble a patch of earth — finished with more grasshoppers, ant dust and gusanos de maguey, the worms that usually wind up in mezcal bottles. During happy hour, you could expect innovative drinks like ant-salt rimmed cocktails. If you want to eat worms in the most fashionable style and to be taken on if you are searching for an eye-opening food journey, this is your place.
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