Posts Tagged ‘chicatanas’

The rainy season has come and with it, the emergence of chicatanas (also known as, tzicatanas) — a pre hispanic insect delicacy in this corner of the world.  My first experience with these giant “flying ants” was at the Oaxaca airport five or six years ago, where I was greeted with, what can only be characterized as, an infestation.  They were flying through the terminal, crawling on the floor, and being chased by toddlers to teens, as adults watched in amusement.  Since then, I’ve come to know and even love these little critters — especially in salsas and mole.


Two years ago, I awoke to my own infestation on the terrace.  However, yesterday morning only a lone female chicatana put in an appearance.  Darn, just when I’d actually considered gathering them up like these children and attempting to make chicatana salsa!


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I’m baack in home sweet home Oaxaca!  Exciting flight — Andrew Zimmern and crew were on the little Embraer from Houston to Oaxaca.  I see an episode from Oaxaca on Bizarre Foods in the future.  Chicatanas, anyone?

Got home, turned on the lights — indoors and out, threw open the doors and windows, and found a couple of  welcome home gifts from my night blooming cereus.

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While I’ve been in el norte, Oaxaca’s rainy season has really kicked in.  Thus, the garden is blooming, the hills are lush and green, and I had no hot water this morning.   Ahhh… it’s good to be home!

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I’m eating my way through the Guelaguetza festivities.  It all began on Friday with the kickoff banquet for the Festival de los Moles.  Remember the chicatanas from last month?  They were there.  Check out the mole on the middle left.  Giving the mole a little “crunch,” it was muy sabroso!

Then yesterday, we ventured out to Reyes Etla for the Expo Feria del Queso y Quesillo (cheese fair), followed by comida at Comedor Colon in Villa de Etla.

Today, we were supposed to go into the mountains of the Sierra Norte to San Antonio Cuajimoloyas for the Feria Regional de Hongos Silvestres.  Alas, bloqueos blocked our way and so L and I were “forced” to browse (and shop) our way through the countless artesan stalls at the top of the Alcalá and in Llano Park.  Of course, this required major nourishment.  At a time like this, nothing beats street food!

Tacos with roasted onions and chopped pork

Tacos with roasted onions and chopped pork

All I can say is, yummmm!  And, next weekend, we will again attempt to venture up into the mountains for the wild mushrooms festival.

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The rainy season has definitely arrived in the city, bringing several hours of lluvia every night for the past five nights.  The first rains of the season also bring (drum roll, please) chicatanas!  Early this morning, I went out onto the terrace with my coffee to be greeted with these not-so-little insects.  Flying (into my hair, eeek!) and crawling all over the place!

Female chicatana on blue oilcloth

Female chicatana on a very wet table.

What, you may ask are chicatanas?  They are giant flying ants that emerge with the first rains of the season — and by giant, I mean about 4 cm from the head to the tip of the wings for the females.  (As in much of the insect world, males are smaller and wingless.)

Male chicatana on wood deck

Male chicatana on the deck.

This occurs early one morning each year and lasts only a few hours.  My first experience with them was a couple of years ago, when I arrived at Oaxaca’s airport for my 8:30 AM flight one May morning, to find, yikes(!) an infestation of insects.  I had no idea what they were, but nobody seemed to mind, and kids were running around collecting them.  The answer came after I boarded the plane and began talking with a Oaxaqueña across the aisle.  She explained that the arrival of the chicatanas was a much-anticipated event because they are a delicacy.  As the video below documents, they are soaked, cleaned, toasted on a comal, ground, seasoned, and made into a salsa.

According to this post in a Chicago based culinary chat site, it has been almost “500 years since Bernardino de Sahagun reported to Europe on the tzicatana [chicatana in Nahuatl] in his Nueva Historia, from its divine associations to its swarm ethology (mirroring the movements of the Aztecan armies) to its apparent deliciousness to the Nahuan-speaking people in the region.”  And, long before that, tzicatanas were mentioned in the Florentine Codex.

Female chicatana on her back

Female chicatana doing the back stroke on the table.

By 9:30 this morning, they were gone.  However, should you find yourself in Oaxaca during a brief visit by the chicatanas, here is a recipe for Chicatana Salsa.

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