Sunday, January 26, 2003
Chuen-Yen has a recipe for us today. I'd rank this one with the dry Jell-O salad mentioned earlier:
Mwadzuka bwange? (How are you this morning?)
Today I�d like to give you a little taste of Malawian cuisine. Here�s how to prepare flying ants, an excellent source of protein and great meat substitute in any recipe.
Flying ants are best harvested during midday. One bucket of the tasty insects takes approximately thirty minutes to collect; a full bushel may require several hours. Start with the simple task of locating a termite hill, at the base of which formicidae build their subterranean caverns. Identify the area with the highest concentration of ant portals. Remove loose dirt to properly expose the holes. Then, around this site, excavate an oval trench, with a long axis of approximately one meter. Angle a stick of the same length over the long axis with one end inserted in the ground and the midpoint secured atop an erect stick of about half that height in the center of your field. Balance shorter branches, with one end in the perimeter trench and the other end on the central one-meter stick, to fashion a prism shaped skeleton.
Lay fresh grasses over this frame to form a light occluding tent. Sink a bucket into the ground under the high end of the tent. Make an aperture of about three centimeters just above the bucket. The nocturnal insects, believing it night, will emerge and fly toward the glint of false moonlight. However, most will be unable to escape through the small hole and will, in exhaustion, collapse into your bucket. While the ants are filling your bucket, build a fire a few meters away. At regular intervals, remove the ant receptacle, cover and heat over your nearby fire. While roasting, shake vigorously to prevent burning. Pour the dead ants into a basket. Repeat this process until your basket is full. At this point, you can remove any termites that were inadvertently caught with your formicidae. Note: some people prefer to eat their ants with termites.
Once your basket contains a satisfactory number of ants, balance it on your head and walk home. At home, spread the insects on a chitenge (all-purpose 2x1 meter piece of cloth) in direct sunlight. When they are dry, which should be a few hours later, gently agitate in a shallow basket until their brittle wings fall off.
If you do not have teeth, use a mortar and pestle to make a fine ant powder. Mix this powder with water until it has a thick, soupy consistency. Salt to taste. This porridge may be consumed hot or cold.
If you have teeth, fry the ants before incorporating them into your favorite culinary delights. Sprinkle dried ants in a pan of sizzling oil and stir slowly, taking care not to break any. After about a minute and a half, scoop out the morsels and place in a basket. Stir periodically so the grease congeals evenly on each body. When cool, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. These plain ants can be enjoyed as finger foods or cooked with other ingredients. Try stewing them in a curry or saut�ing with vegetables.