A few weeks ago while I was feasting on huaraches and pupusas, at the Red Hook ball fields Serious Eats meet-up I ran into Dave Cook, the man behind Eating in Translation. It’s always good to see him, because we’re kindred spirits when it comes to adventurous ethnic eats. When he told me that El Globo Restaurante in Corona was selling chapulines, or dried Oaxacan grasshoppers, my mouth fell open (almost causing me to lose a bite of precious huarache.) I’d only eaten the crunchy critters in a restaurant once before, at the upscale theater district taqueria Toloache where the tacos fetch a whopping $9 apiece. Since then I’ve been trying to track down Oaxacan grasshoppers all over the city, without any luck.
When we met up at El Globo yesterday I immediately recognized it as the former home to La Nueva Espiga, a tortillera and bakery that was written up a while back by the New York Times. Other than the name, and a rack at the cash register offering chapulines, little had changed. The communal tables and the ramshackle machine that churns out fresh corn tortillas were still there.
We ordered a couple of chapulines tacos and and a huitlacoche huarache. Each taco consisted of a small heap of crunchy, nutty, and slightly salty grasshoppers mixed with onions, cilantro and a touch of cheese inside two fresh tortillas that had been crisped up on the flat-top. The taco was even better splashed with the brick-red chipotle hot sauce.
The huitlacoche huarache was pretty darn good too. Huitlacoche is a Mexican delicacy commonly referred to as corn smut or corn mushroom. I can see why people compare its wonderfully funky flavor to truffles.
El Globo also sells small bags of chapulines for $5 a pop, so I grabbed some. On the way home I stopped in at the Thai grocery Sugar Club to get some miang kum. I wanted to see how the chapulines would work as an ingredient in this classic Thai drinking snack. The resulting Thai-Mexican cross-cultural culinary mashup turned out just fine, with the grasshoppers adding an extra bit of crunch and flavor.
El Globo Restaurante
42-13 102 Street, Corona NY 11368 (map)