A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 21, 2009
Mexican Caviar (ant larvae or escamoles)

Caviar is the processed, salted roe of fish (usually sturgeon). “Mexican caviar” is a nickname that has been applied to insect eggs in Mexico that resemble and that eaten similar to caviar. Ahuautli or ahuautle (larvae of syrphid flies) was called “Mexican caviar” by at least 1953. Escamoles (ant larvae) has been called “Mexican caviar” since at least 1989 and most commonly holds the nickname today.

Huitlacoche (corn smut) has also been called “Mexican caviar.”

“Mexican caviar” is very different from “Texas caviar” (black-eyed peas)


Wikipedia: Escamoles
Escamoles are the larvae of ants of the genus Liometopum, harvested from the roots of the agave (tequila) or maguey (mezcal) plant in Mexico. In some forms of Mexican cuisine, escamoles are considered a delicacy and are sometimes referred to as “insect caviar”. They have a cottage cheese like consistency and taste buttery, yet slightly nutty.

On the TV series Burt Wolf’s Travels and Traditions, in the episode The Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Burt Wolf demonstrated how to eat a taco of escamoles and guacamole. The guacamole is used partly as a condiment and partly to prevent the escamoles from falling out of the taco.

Wikipedia: Caviar
Caviar is the processed, salted roe of certain species of fish, most notably the sturgeon (black caviar) and the salmon (red caviar). It is commercially marketed worldwide as a delicacy and is eaten as a garnish or a spread; for example, with hors d’œuvres.

Marhoul Travel - Mexico
Tlaxcala is also famous for its pre-Hispanics recipes, including salsas made from the maguey worm, pulque, chinicuiles (red maguey worms), chapulines (fried grasshoppers), escamoles (ant larvae) and ahuautli (larvae of syrphid flies).

Google Books
In and Around the Valley of Mexico
By Thomas Ifor Rees
Published by the author
1953
Pg. 5:
... eggs are eagerly sought after by the native fishermen, being considered a great delicacy — a kind of Mexican caviar. The native name for these eggs is ahuautli.

Google Books
Ancient Mexico: an introduction to the pre-Hispanic cultures
By Frederick A. Peterson
Edition: 2
Published by Capricorn Books
1962
Pg. 170:
A Mexican ‘caviar’ consists of the eggs of a mosquito which are laid on the waters of Lake Texcoco and are gathered by people in canoes

Google Books
Strange Peoples and Stranger Customs
By Gordon Cortis Baldwin
New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company
1967
Pg. 26:
The Aztec Indian connoisseur relished cactus worms almost as much as he did Mexican caviar, a paste made from the eggs of a mosquito laid on the lakes. 

4 October 1979, Galveston (TX) , “Mexican explores insects as food source,” pg. 12A, col. 2:
A dish known as “Mexican caviar” consists of fly eggs from Lake Texcoco in Mexico City.

27 June 1988, Paris (TX) News, “Entomologist claims bugs an overlooked food source,” pg. 6, cols. 1-2: 
Certain types of water bug egg, which taste like shrimp, are harvested for Mexican caviar and served in the best restaurants. Another delicacy is escamoles, or immature ants.

4 June 1989, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, “Exotic Food of Mexico’s Aztec Roots,” pg. A16:
The escamoles (ess-cah-MAW-less), as the ant eggs are known, look like white rice. Sometimes referred to as “Mexican caviar,” they are difficult to reap…

3 March 1993, Indiana (PA) Gazette, “Aztec cuisine features beetles, other delicacies” by Isaac A. levi (AP), pg. 20, col. 1:
Noyes, a 61-year-old native of Chicago, said he was proud to have invented Mexican caviar—unhatched ant eggs dropped into boiling water for a few seconds, then broiled lightly and served like caviar.

“It has a very delicate flavor,” but Mexicans “usually spoil it by frying it bathed in chopped garlic,” he added.

Google Books
Fodor’s 98 Mexico
By Deborah Field Washburn
Published by Fodor’s Travel Publications
1997
Pg. 43: 
Escamoles de hormiga (red-ant roe), 97% protein, is known as the “caviar of Mexico” for both its deliciousness and its costliness. 

Google Books
Creepy Crawly Cuisine: the gourmet guide to edible insects
By Julieta Ramos-Elorduy
Photographs by Peter Menzel
Published by Inner Traditions / Bear & Company
1998
Pg. 73:
Mexican Caviar
One of the most common insect foods in rural Mexico is ahuautle, the eggs of several different species of water boatmen and backswimmers that live together in lakes.

New York (NY) Daily News
MEX. CAVIAR MAKES MOUNTAIN OUT OF AN ANTHILL
BY JULIE BESONEN
Sunday, August 29th 2004, 7:02AM
Nobody wants ants in his pants, so it’s prudent for ant egg hunters to get naked before trekking into Central Mexico’s hills when digging for ant colonies. The ants get enraged, naturally, when these giant, nude predators steal their spawn. They swarm and bite to no avail - man beats ant every time in the battle for this local, expensive delicacy known as escamoles, or Mexican caviar.

Google Books
Dishing:
great dish—and dishes—from America’s most beloved gossip columnist

By Liz Smith
New York, NY: Simon and Schuster
2005
Pg. 123:
As long as we’re on “unusual” things to eat, let me tell you about something else you might enjoy—or not. It’s escamoles, ant eggs, known as “Mexican caviar.”

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Saturday, March 21, 2009 • Permalink