Grasshoppers, Corn Smut, and Cactus in Somerville: Part 1

The Restaurant

Tu y Yo
858 Broadway
Somerville, MA 02144
(617) 623-5411
Yelp
Website

Tu Y Yo is probably the fanciest restaurant that we’ve been to, so it’s also the most expensive.  However, everything we had was delicious, and if you love Mexican food, this is some of the best that you will find in Massachusetts.  If you’re hungry and have some money weighing you down, this place should be one of your first destinations.

Andrew’s Take

Our adventure this week took us out to Powderhouse Square. When Ché and I met, we found that Tu y Yo has very wide weekend brunch hours which is awesome, but unfortunately we had to leave and wander around for an hour since most of what we were looking for was only served on the dinner menu. So when we returned later we were psyched to see that they indeed had the insects we were looking for! That’s right ladies and gentlemen we’ve finally reached the inevitable. BUGS! In fact bugs were technically the only meat we had in this weeks meal. Chapulines are just like your everyday grasshoppers they’re just the eatin’ kind. Our options for these grasshoppers were to have them in mini tacos or empanadas. We opted for the empanadas, which were quite delicious. Just like the last few Latin restaurants we’ve visited most of what we ate was also accompanied by delicious sauces. The rest of our meal included a green cactus mole and a crepe with cuitlacoche or corn smut.

The crepe showed up first. Now my experience with crepes is very limited for I am a pancake man myself, but I must admit it was quite tasty. The skinnier crepe isn’t afraid to go where the pancake is rarely taken, to the savory side of things. No sir there wasn’t any syrup in sight. The crepe was served smothered in cheese and a really tasty poblano based sauce. Inside was what we were after though. Cuitlacoche is a fungus that develops on corn. It might not be much to look at but gastronauticaly it presented us with a truly unique experience. Reading the wikipedia entry on corn smut wouldn’t be the best idea before trying it. I luckily decided to do this afterwards. They don’t exactly sugar coat their descriptions of what it is or how it forms, but trust me that didn’t really matter in a meal where we were also eating grasshoppers. The fact that there is apparently such debate over what cuitlacoche translates to amazes me when the only thing they seem to agree on is the part that describes it was “excrement”. I could also go on to point out that we apparently ate corn tumors but again that doesn’t really matter. When I heard fungus I assumed it was going to be like eating a mushroom, and it kind of was. So if you don’t really like mushrooms this might not be for you. The texture is a lot like eating diced mushrooms, but with a certain corny-ness to it. It’s got a familiar vegetable consistency that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The corn smut definitely worked well to fill the crepe, and was extra delicious with the poblano sauce.

Next up was the Nopales en Mole Verde. Cactus served in a green mole sauce with a poblano base. Neither of us has noticed cactus on the menu before so it was a nice surprise when we got there and we just went with it. Now I didn’t say anything at the time but every once in a while I got nervous I was going to get a cactus needle in my mouth. That didn’t happen though, thank god. The cactus was actually quite delicious. A lot of the reviews said it was like green beans or asparagus, but Ché and I felt it was more like okra. Okra sans the seeds that is. I’ve had other “cactus flavored” things before but never managed to actually encounter cactus served as a dish. I feel like cactus flavor is handled a lot like cucumber flavor. It mainly serves as a strongly refreshing taste while the cactus is a little bit “spicier” than the cucumber. When you’re actually eating it though it’s a lot like eating any other green veggie. I didn’t think about it too much but it did give me flashbacks to the bitter melon, but only in the way it looked. The taste was much more satisfying and I didn’t regret eating it at all. This was also, I think, my first encounter with a mole sauce. Ché had me very excited with his description of the ingredients which sometimes include chocolate. I thought that was neat though I don’t think the green mole we had included anything that unusual, although it was very tasty.

The grasshopper empanadas showed up a little later. Which I can only assume is because those little guys aren’t very easy to catch. We kinda sat on those for a little bit. I feel like we were both excited to try them but also a little reserved about the whole bug thing. We eventually dug in. There was the tell tale crunch and you could definitely see what you were eating. The only thing that really bothered me were the legs. If I didn’t chew them right and just swallowed they would get stuck in my throat. It wasn’t as gross as it sounds just slightly annoying. Putting the grasshoppers in empanadas definitely makes it easier to eat, but after the initial bite you realize it’s not as bad as you thought. Of course Ché and I got curious so we dissected the empanadas to get to the goods. The fact was the fried dough was a little heavy and you could tell there was something in there but you couldn’t get a really get a good taste for the little guys. We snagged a couple of the whole grasshoppers out of the empanadas and tried them. They definitely have a distinct flavor. If someone asked me what a grasshopper tastes like I’d say it tastes like a grasshopper. They did have hints of flavor here or there, the kind of flavor that reminds you of something else but your not quite sure what. They were pretty earthy and kind of nutty. As soon as I bit into them, I got this shot of flavor I can’t really describe. I can only assume bugs are like one of those things that tastes like whatever they eat. They’re so small they just absorb the flavor or something. I would definitely try these guys again. In fact the experience gave me flashbacks to what I now believe could technically be considered the secret origins of the Boston Gastronauts.

A few years back when Ché and I were still in school he came by to hang out and he brought with him some chocolate covered ants. If I remember correctly he and I were the only ones willing to try them. Of course these were a piece of cake considering they were covered in chocolate but you could definitely still taste the crunchy little ants. With something like that you just tell yourself it’s a crunch bar. Looking back on that makes me think that the Boston Gastronauts were destined to be, and who knows how many more bugs we’ll encounter!!

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