Stinkbug salsa for the iodine deficient



jumiles, good for goiter

There's more than one way to eat a stinkbug. There are many, in fact, as I learned by cursorily Googling "jumiles," the iodine-rich insects I mentioned in my story about Cremeria La Ordeña, the southwest side Mexican corner store with a interesting selection of rare ingredients, more than a few from the southwestern state of Guerrero. That's the home of Atizies taxcoensis, which is more than just an culinary oddity with its own holiday.* They can be bought in markets all over the state, and are—or were, at least—an important source of iodine in the diets of the people who live there.

Actually, most of the recipes you come across are salsas in which the bugs are crushed up in a molcajete along with tomatoes and chiles. Some recipes say to avoid other things like onions, garlic, and cilantro, because you don't want to obscure the flavor of the insects. I didn't expect there was much chance of that. When I told La Ordeña owner Nicolas Aguado of my plans to make salsa de jumiles his face twisted into the reflexive grimace of a man who never forgot nor forgave his first stinkbug.

"Really?" he asked. "OK, well, you only need a few. They are strong." He scooped out 20 pinky-nail-sized brown jumiles from the bucket in the freezer and sent me on my way. I was a little disappointed that they didn't come back to life when thawed—vigorous stinkbugs seem to be the way to go—and I detected none of the cinnamon-like aroma that probably convinced people they were a good thing to eat in the first place. So I decided to toast my bugs in a skillet before grinding them in the hope they'd extrude a little more character. They didn't. I sampled one. It was crunchy, and had a mild, lingering bitterness, but certainly wasn't the most objectionable invertebrate I've ever eaten.

needs more bugs

After that I just incorporated them into a basic salsa recipe with roasted tomatoes, garlic, jalapeño, a little salt, and cilantro, and ate them on white corn tortillas with La Ordeña's proprietary brand of Guerrerense queso xincho (You just slice that up and warm it in a skillet, where it softens, but doesn't melt).

The salsa was fine, but tasted nothing of the bugs. You might catch a stray appendage in your teeth, but if no one told you you were eating them you'd be none the wiser. I think next time (a next time being strictly theoretical) I'll add more jumiles.

Salsa de jumiles
20 stinkbugs (or more)
4 small tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 jalapeño
A few tablespoons chopped cilantro
Salt to taste
Roast the tomatoes, garlic, and jalapeño in a hot oven or a skillet until they're charred and softened. While they cool, toast the jumiles briefly in the skillet and then pound them in a mortar. Peel the garlic and add it and the chili and pound into a paste. Add the tomatoes and crush them until you have a chunky consistently, swimming with insect parts. Stir in the cilantro and salt to taste.

*On the Monday after the Day of the Dead folks in Taxco clamber up Cerro de Huixteco, to hunt for the bugs.

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