New ingredient: Ants
One of the most unique ingredients that we would like to introduce to you was a recent addition to our spring menu: the ant. In order to understand this dish, we need to go all the way back to our hunter-gatherer ancestors.
Before the foundation of human civilization, people lived in tribes and small communities with the common goal of survival. All around the world, ants as an ingredient, can be found in the dishes of indigenous tribes and it also plays a key part in fine dining, especially when prepared by South American and Asian chefs.
When we were toying with the idea of adding ant to the menu, it evoked cheerful memories for most of us from our childhoods. A colleague from Transylvania told us the story of how they hunted ‘ant vinegar’ by inserting a blade of grass into an anthill and licking it. Another fellow worker used to collect ants to put them in a terrarium and marvel at how well-organized they work. It turned out many of us had some kind of relationship with these tiny insects and most of already tasted them as well. Childhood curiosity tends to turn more conservative with age, but luckily our chef, Szilárd loves experimenting with unique ingredients as a way to introduce us to his childhood. This is usually the time to share the best stories, and as everyone chimes in their experiences with different ingredients, that’s when creativity pours into genius ideas.
Due to formic acid (CH2O2) found in the insects, their flavor is pleasantly citrusy, leaving a tingling sensation on the tip of your tongue. The ants are complemented by fresh spring asparagus and koji water on our menu. Guests have mixed feelings when first presented with the dish—the first reaction is usually astonishment followed by laughter, but we have also heard little screams. The feedback is generally positive, many diners especially highlight “the ant stalk” as one of their favourite dishes out of the 15.
Written by: our lovely Fruzsina Farkas