Sunday, September 07, 2008
Mexico City: Eating Worms at El Rincon del Conejo
Making fresh tortillas at El Rincon del Conejo.
We're on the road to Teotihuacan and we're hungry.
On this Sunday morning, myself, Joseph, Pablo and Reg have joined up with Sylvia's family to visit the pyramids of Teotihuacan. As we leave the urban congestion of Mexico City behind for the one hour journey to Teotihuacan we start to see the real Mexico. There's grass and mountains. There are trains with people riding on top of box cars.
But we need to eat and Sylvia's dad has just the spot: El Rincon del Conejo. The Corner of the Rabbit.
Walk in and it's all Mexico. The festive paper cutouts hang from the wall. A machine pumps out fresh tortillas onto a comal. It's rustic and festive at the same time - and evidently the food here is delicious.
Delicious nopal salsa.
Without much delay, we get right to it. Some salsa and nopal is dropped in front of us. The nopal is prepared with lime juice, tomatoes, chiles and onions, and it's absolutely delicious. In fact, it's the best I've ever had. Unfortunately, most places don't clean their cactus very well, which leaves a slimy film covering the surface that detracts from the flavor and experience. This is fresh, clean and fantastic.
First up, is a round of sopes, formed and shaped tortillas filled with refried beans, onions, chiles and cilantro. It's warm, fresh and the tortilla is slightly crisp. From here, things take a very interesting turn.
I've always maintained that I'll try anything. At least once. Put it in front of me and chances are that I'll eat it. Maybe it's an open mind for culinary adventure, or maybe it's just a macho thing. Either way, I'm about to be put to the test.
Two hot, sizzling ceramic bowls arrive with accompanying tortillas. Chinicuiles in one and Escamole in the other. That's Maguey Worms and Ant Eggs to you and me.
Yes, you did read that right: Maguey Worms and Ant Eggs.
Sylvia's aunt offers some Escamole.
Actually, the ant eggs look pretty innocuous. Little while things that could pass for cooked caviar. But nothing can hide the odd look of the red Maguey worm. They look like worms - no ands, ifs or buts about it, they're worms sauteed with chiles, cilantro and onions.
Eating them is pretty straightforward. Just take a scoop and put it on a tortilla. Add some salsa and eat. Again, the ant eggs are pretty innocuous. Simple. Easy. There's an interesting flavor to them that I can't really describe, but it's not offensive. The worms, on the other hand, are something else.
Taco de Chinicuiles.
There's no way around it. They're worms. And you know it. Perhaps it's the fact that you know they're worms and your preconditioned to think that eating worms is gross - because you can't separate yourself from the gross factor in your mind. Scoop it out, add some salsa (maybe a lot), roll it up and take a bite. The flavor is odd. Different. Not bad. Just different.
The weird part is the slight crunchiness that comes from the fried skin of the worms. You can't get over it. It's there. It's crunchy. You know it's not chicharrones. A part of you wants to cry but you press on.
Taco de Escamole.
Aside from the weird crunchiness, it's really not that bad. The flavor is mild and I have to wonder if my reaction isn't fueled more by social conditioning than by the actual experience of eating worms. In American culture, eating worms is gross and disgusting. You just don't do it. And I wonder: if I had eaten the worms without being told that they were worms, what would my reaction have been? Perhaps the less I know about the food I'm eating, the better.
El Rincon del Conejo is known for their odd selection of cuisine. On the menu, they've got crocodile, birds, buffalo, deer, goat, ostrich and more - including their namesake rabbit. The menu is large and varied, making it difficult to choose. I ask the guy what is his recommendation and it's for the deer.
Some pan dulce lands on our table and it's always the highlight of my Mexican meals. Pablo beats me to the chocolate covered concha so I opt for the regular. It's light, fluffy and moist. Pablo notes how it's hard to find concha in the States (he's in L.A.) that's moist and delicious because of our American penchant for making everything large. I think about the Mexican bakeries in Maryland and, they too, make the conchas a bit too big - and perhaps that's why they're usually dry.
But these are delicious. Almost perfect. I wish I had coffee. But our food is coming and I don't want to load up too soon.
Corte de Venado a las brasas
When the deer arrives, it looks tasty. Simply seasoned and grilled, the meat is thin and not as tough as the waiter predicted. There's a slight gamey-ness to it but it's barely noticeable. It's served with grilled nopal and cebollitas with fresh tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, jalapeno and hot tortillas. Quite simply, it's fantastic.
Arrachera - con frijoles, nopal asado, cebollitas y chile toreado.
Both Pablo and Joseph have opted for the steak Arrachera. Simply grilled with some cactus and beans. I had a taste and it too was delicious. Down at the other end of the table, Reg and the family went for the mixed special that featured just about everything this place has to offer. It was the smarter move. One that I didn't think of but wished I did.
The rest of the meal went smoothly. More bread and more deer and I was stuffed. Time to move on and visit Teotihuacan.
Parrillada Especial - cordoniz, filete, costillitas, chistorra, puerco, pollo, cecina, cebollitas, 1/4/ conejo, rodajas de queso y chiles asados.
Sylvia eats a rabbit leg.
The coffee people in us compels us to shoot this vintage Faema E61 Lever espresso machine they're still using.
El Rincon del Conejo
Carretera Lecheria Texcoco 19.5