Looking back after a visit to the local market in Siam Reap, red tree ants were not a surprise to us. Our regular guide raves about them as a delicacy, served fermented or alone. But I cannot see any good reason for a western chef to use red ants in cooking unless his roots are closely connected. Having said that, it takes me back to the Noma dinner at Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo.
The service of raw Langoustine topped with red ants was borderline repulsive. That’s not to say that I haven’t ventured out to taste red ants but not in a metropolitan where there are so many other good options.
The shock value of using red ants was the aim of the chef – and it worked. Especially red ants on raw fish – yuck. What a terrible combination. The slight advantage (food speaking) is the texture – crunchy.
I forewarned the chef that I wouldn’t be interested. Having said that René Redzepi is a very nice, charming person, hard working and hip. That didn’t stop me from wondering why any world class chef would offer insects on his menu and especially to a Japanese audience. I know this is one of his signature dishes (eureka) he serves in Copenhagen but them again does it really justify using insects. There are so many other options and if you are after texture find another solution.
I guess its still early in the morning to decipher the brain code of a chef. At the same time, I am pondering over the El Bulli’s set of cooks books I received as a gift. They are truly incredible. When I visited the laboratory and offices of Ferran, I was astounded by by the rows of cabinets filled with processed foods from all over the globe – I thought how strange. Now I get it!
I felt dumbfounded when I met Ferran for the first time, and his laboratory was so small. After trying El Bulli several times, I never had the impression he was trying to impress, his genius was he was trying to invent a new language and he did. That was his genius and the proof is it is here to stay.