A Latin Affair: eating bugs at La Merced

THE agave worms were deep fried so they tasted a little like crisps.

The chapulines (grasshoppers) and hormiga chicatanas (ants) were also crunchy but you got that extra squish of their insides as you chomped.

The embedded video sufficiently details my reaction to eating insects.

While I won't be rushing out to snack again on the crispy critters, grasshoppers with guacamole and ricotta ain't half bad.

Definitely put it on the menu when you're visiting Mexico - you gotta try what the locals eat.

Also - pop taco de maciza on the list. It's beef head.

The guy literally grabs some cooked meat off a cow's head sitting on his table.

It will likely be the softest, melt-in-your-mouth, carne you'll eat.

La Merced market is not for the faint-hearted.

There's the odd smell that could send your stomach into a spin, they do like to display their animal parts prominently and you need your wits about you when it's busy.

But the reward is great - incredible food, dizzying sights and fun, to boot.

The whole neighbourhood was once the commercial trade centre of Mexico City and the market, still today, is the biggest in the city.

There is often so many people in the tight aisles that pushing and shouting are both common and necessary.

EatMexico puts on small walking tours for people seeking authentic adventures.

Each one varies slightly but the experience is worth every peso.

Starting at a barbecue we pulled up a colourful plastic stool and had a taco de cecina - basically a meat and chip buddy in a tortilla.  So, yeah, kinda yum.

Next, the tlacoyo con quelite is made from blue corn and fava beans with a stringy cheese from Oaxaca - a gorgeous town about five hours drive south of Mexico City.

Huaraches con huitlacoche - a big flat bread with delicioso toppings - is the perfect share plate.

Now I'm a massive fan, in capital letters, of salsa verde - a green sauce with a slight kick - hell I'm even a fan of the red stuff despite the need for several nose blows to compensate.

But mole could be best sauce to ever exist.

Whoever thought to use chocolate as a base for meat sauces is a champion.

Not quite the same cold on pastel-covered plastic spoons in a market, but the almond and cranberry ones were fantastic.

I just would have preferred the shrimp one warm, and on some fish.

But if you see mole poblano on a menu - you'll thank me for giving it a go.

Be warned when looking through the photo gallery on this blog if you're a vegetarian.

Going through the meat section, the chicken feet, pig trotters and cow heads can be confronting.

But you'll probably be distracted by the blokes howling at you - the fresh meat in their aisle.

Try the chicharron - pork rind - along the way and then freshen up with an agua de maracuya - a fruit-flavoured water.

The bees and wasps hanging out in the sweets section are completely unnerving given we tend to run if a swarm comes our way.

But stall keepers and customers seem unperturbed.

A walk around the nearby streets reveals is also interesting with a street dedicated to baby dresses for christenings - not the kind you might imagine.

You might be lucky enough to spot a tortilla maker who doesn't need to advertise.

They just start up the machine and people appear from all directions for fresh, hot-off-the-press goodness.

Food can be the most enjoyable part of a trip if you're adventurous enough to give it a go.

While the places we ate were carefully selected on a tour, my hot tip is to only eat street food when there are a zillion locals hoeing in too.

It's not 100% safe bet but it's a good guide.



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