|Ingredients for Mexican cuisine are now widely available throughout the United States and Canada. Many supermarkets now carry sauces and even chilies used in many dishes. Dried pasilla and ancho chilies might be available in packages. Asian markets also carry ingredients used in Mexican cookery, such as cilantro and some chilies. If you are lucky enough to live in an area where people of Mexican extraction live, then such exotic items such as gusanos de maguey or chapulines might be available. If you cannot find any of these ingredients, then a trip to Mexico is in order.
In case you don't want to eat the delectable dried and cured caterpillars from century plants (gusanos de maguey) themselves, here is a sauce that gives their flavor to any dish.
Insects were a major part of the Pre-Columbian diet. Mexicans were deficient in animal proteins because they had so few domesticated animals. Therefore, insects were an important food supplement. Insect-eating lives on in many parts of the country and it one of the ways by which Mexicans retain their traditions.
5 pasilla chilies, soaked, seeded and deveined 5 ancho chilies, soaked, seeded and deveined water to cover
4-6 large dried gusanos de maguey (caterpillars from the maguey plant), soaked in 1 cup hot water
5 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried shrimp
Soak the pasilla and ancho chilies in water. When soft enough to puree, seed and devein. Soak the gusanos in hot water until soft. Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Heat before serving.
Goes well with any tortilla-based dish.
Gusanos de maguey are hard to find in North America, so this recipe can be adapted to give some elements of their flavor.
Simply substitute 1 large tomato for the gusanos and about 1 tbsp mescal, or to taste. If using tomato it is best to toast it on an open flame or in a broiler and then remove the skin.
Blend everything together and serve it with chicken enchiladas.