It’s funny what prejudices we all come up with, sometimes for no discernible reason at all. Give someone a plate of dog meat and the reaction you invariably get from westerners is “Eughhh, how could you eat a poor doggie-woggie” or some such tripe, when the said person is perfectly happy to munch into a piggy-wiggie knuckle or a baahhh-lamb chop, not to mention mooh-cows, and goodness knows what else.
In China the age-old expression that anything that moves is liable to end up in someone’s dinner bowl is pretty well true. But judging by the expressions I get when I tell my Chinese friends of the latest delicacy I tried recently in the Philippines makes me wonder if that holds true any more…
In the north of the main island, Luzon, it seems they have rather a liking for eating ant eggs … No, not the ant eggs we were so used to feeding our pet goldfish in the UK of yesteryear, but the eggs of leaf-cutter ants – a.k.a. 'abuos' in the local vernacular.
Now, in my ignorance I always thought ants lived happy fulfilled lives in anthills. But not the red weaver ants. They’re much happier gobbing their collective saliva to stick together clusters of leaves into gigantic round nests that you see stuck in the branches of the trees.
There must be literally millions and millions of ants inside these nests, as can be seen if you are rash enough to poke one with a stick before backing off pretty damned fast!
But the locals go one further than that, placing a large basket under it, and hacking into the nest so that its contents fall into the basket, and then waiting until the majority of the ants have decided that all of their hard work was probably in vain as they scurry off to go and create a new nest, leaving those tempting looking eggs discarded and abandoned.
Preparing this mini feast is simplicity itself: Slice some onions and chillies, crush some garlic, slice some tomatoes, put some cooking oil in a pan, turn up the heat, throw in the veg and sauté, after which you add the eggs and stir fry until they become translucent. Add salt and pepper to taste. Voilà! A feast fit for… well, other brave souls like your favourite blogger.
It tastes a little cheesy, not at all like you are expecting; and some of the gourmand cook books recommend that if you throw in some of the ants to the whole caboodle it adds a sourness to the overall taste sensation. Hmmm. Maybe not!
If you are unlucky enough not to have any trees laden with abuos nests, then worry not. Wipe away those tears of frustration and just pop down to your local market and keep your eyes open.
Let your imagination run riot! A ripe mango should go down a treat with the cheesy eggs, as would a snifter of Emperador!
Oh! But what about those bee grubs over there, I hear you ask.