We’ve all read that because of their ready availability (not to mention the resources needed to raise livestock like cattle and pigs), bugs are poised to be the protein of the future. A chef at one new restaurant in Washington, D.C. is putting that theory to the test.
Enrique Limardo, the Venezuelan-born executive chef and co-owner at the new Latin American restaurant Seven Reasons, has some unexpected ingredients on the menu that were inspired by his time growing up in coastal Venezuela and his travels around the Amazon.
“Katara is a spicy sauce from [the] Venezuelan jungle (Amazonas) and is made from fermented big ants, roots and some local spices,” he says. “The flavor profile is sour, earthy and spicy, [and] we use to use it in a sauce to season our traditional cassava bread.” Also going into some dishes are termites, which he describes as crunchy with an unusual, slightly sour flavor. He adds them to beef and chicken stocks and also grinds them with sea salt to produce a rare seasoning for protein or vegetables.
“My inspiration to use those ingredients is a fundamental part of my palate, soul, and memories,” Limardo muses. “It is the representation of my roots, which I use to try and pay tribute to my ancestors’ culture.” He adds that these off-the-beaten-path components lend a unique flavor profile to dishes and allow him to share his culture with his guests.
In addition to insects, other indigenous items include duck tongue chicharrón with spicy merken sauce, skate ravioli in plantaindough and turmada, a traditional Andean pork and potato casserole reimagined by Limardo as a crispy paper potato stuffed with bacon, sous-vide egg, and potato foam.
Due to recent sources issues from Venezuela, the availability of termites and ant derivatives on the menu at Seven Reasons may fluctuate. As far as whether or not using insects in the kitchen is a fleeting trend or one that’s here to stay, Limardo points out that humans have been eating bugs for centuries. “Although here in the United States it may be a new concept, it has a very big potential in several aspects, one of them being it can be the substitution of regular proteins,” he notes. “I think there is a future, but may be a long ways away to get people on board."