by Mike Sula
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.
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
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.