When we invited Alex Atala of D.O.M. about 3 years ago to give a demonstration at The Flemish Primitives together with Dominique Persoone, he brought Saúva ants along with him from Brazil.
Tasting these ants changed our perception from weird little appetite discouraging creatures with not much flavor into a delicacy that can be used as a spice. They tasted like lemongrass, ginger and cardamom.
In December last year we were visiting São Paulo to dive deeper into the ingredients of Brazil. We wanted to see and taste the diversity in flavors for ourselves. Luckily we got a lot of support from Alex Atala of D.O.M. and the local community.
The coming weeks we will post many recipes and insights based on the research followed after our trip to Brazil.
But to begin with; the Saúva ants. Why do these ants taste like lemongrass?
In the aroma analysis of the ants we see the strong presence of 2 isomers of citral; neral and geranial. Geranial has a strong citrus odor, while neral is less citrusy, but more sweet. Lemongrass contains about 1–2% essential oil in a dry weight basis. The essential oil is characterized by a high content of … neral and geranial.
The ants also contain large quantities of linalool. Linalool is an important flavor molecule, present everywhere around us, going from fruits to spices and ending in choice perfume ingredients. It smells floral, citrus, woody.The molecule is also found abundantly in Belgian white beers, coffee, gin and flowers such as elderflower, jasmine and hibiscus.
Based on the aroma profile, which Foodpairing combinations can we make with Saúva ants?
If we check the fruit section, we get this overview. The bigger the green dot, the better the match. So the ant matches very well with mango and banana but can also be paired with cherimoya or even pineapple! If pineapple is your favorite fruit, go for the pineapple-ant combo.
Recipe by Alex Atala (D.O.M.): Ants and pineapple
(extract from book:D.O.M.: Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients by Alex Atala from Phaidon Press.)
Peel the pineapple and cut into 4 equal cubes.
Finish and presentation:
4 saúva ants
Place a piece of pineapple on top of a serving dish and top with ant. Serve immediately.