But one of the most interesting things of traveling anywhere is the chance to try the local food. While eating local food out at restaurants is one thing we did right away, recently we've taken to trying our hand at cooking local food ourselves. The girls have refined their matoke recipe thanks to advice from Vivian, our closest contact at FAOC. We've recently had authentic katogo prepared for us by one of the women from Kahenda. And we had a surprise visitor drop by to make us Ugandan millet porridge. But one thing we hadn't tried yet was grasshopper.
Our first encounter with them was in the market in Entebbe. Tara, not knowing what they were, made the mistake of walking over to a big barrel of fried grasshoppers and pointing. She was offered a scoopful of grasshopper torsos to sample, and caused quite a bit of laughter when she refused. We resolved to try them, we just wanted to wait for "the right time". Well, our hand was recently forced. Grasshopper is seasonal (yes, they have a grasshopper season). And it's ending very soon; the best time of year to get them ends in May and starts up again in November, a couple months after the dry season ends. Realizing that our chance was going to get away from us (we weren't going to settle for imported grasshopper) Katie and I headed to the market this morning in search of grasshoppers.
Step 1: Buy the grasshoppers at your local market
It didn't take long for us to find them. There was a woman selling a basketful at the entrance to the market. It was a bit of an odd sight. They are captured at night using powerful lights to attract them. They are then funneled into barrels where they spend the rest of the night using up their energy trying to escape. In the morning their legs and wings are plucked and they are sent off to the market and sold alive. They are wildly popular and we were assured that no grasshoppers are left by the end of the day.
So Katie and I looked over the basket of wiggling torsos trying our best to look like grasshopper connoisseurs. "Yes, this looks like it will do. Ah, very fresh today". We went with the intention of buying fried grasshopper, but suddenly the chance to cook them ourselves seemed pretty appealing. In for a penny...
We bought one large, overflowing cup for 5000 shillings (about 2 dollars) and walked off with our wiggling plastic bag. We were pretty sure most of them were dead by the time we got home, but the girls voted to throw them in the freezer for a while just in case.
Step 2: Rinse the grasshoppers
We've been told this step shouldn't be skipped. So we dumped the bag of almost-certainly-dead grasshoppers into a pot of water and rinsed them several times, eventually working up the nerve to use my hands.
Cleaning the little guys
Step 3: Remove the excess water.
This step is less pleasant. Basically, squish the water out of them.
Somewhat less wet grasshoppers
Step 4: Throw them in the frying pan.
We've been told several times that you don't need to add oil as they "make their own oil". Yeah.
Step 6: When the power in the building goes off, cover and simmer gently.
Step 7: When power returns 45 minutes later, add some olive oil and fry for 5 more minutes. Your grasshoppers will change colour when done.
Just think of them as little shrimp
Our first bite (taken with the timer on my camera)
Getting the hang of it
By the end we were actually enjoying them