A honey ant. Image courtesy of René Redzepi's Instagram
A honey ant. Image courtesy of René Redzepi's Instagram

This was the best thing René Redzepi ate all year

It's a honey ant and it's popular in many indigenous people’s diets. René says it’s 'seriously amazing'

It might be vegetable season at Noma, yet chef René Redzepi has more lively food on his mind. He’s just posted an image of something he describes as “the best thing I ate in 2017.”

What is this odd looking morsel? It's a honey ant. And honey ants writes Josh Evans in our book On Eating Insects, “are designated worker ants that are fed nectar in times of plenty until their abdomens engorge and they become living larders. In times of scarcity, the workers induce them to regurgitate some of the concentrated energy stored in their swollen bodies.

“The ants, also known as repletes or plerergates, hang in long chambers called galleries, tended to by other workers and moved up or down based on the moisture in the soil. This is also why it is easier to find them after a rain, because the workers move them higher in the hive to prevent them from being drowned in the rising groundwater.”

 

Chef and insect eater René Redzepi
Chef and insect eater René Redzepi

Evans dug up his honey ants in Australia, though they’re fairly easy to find in other parts of the world, such as Mexico, where Noma hosted a beachside pop-up restaurant last year.

Unlike some of the critters in Evans book, the honey ant is more or less a walking food bag and doesn’t require special preparation techniques. Redzepi explains in his post, “their abdomen, the size of a small grape is full of a sweet and sour nectar. It’s seriously amazing.”

 

On Eating Insects
On Eating Insects

This is one dish that – given a spade and the right patch of soil – more or less all of us could master. For more on the gastronomic possibilities on offer within this class of animal, order a copy of On Eating Insects; for more on René Redzepi go here.