A Venezuelan chef is hoping to get diners interested in the cuisine of an isolated tribe from the southern rain forest. Some of its traditional delicacies: smoked monkey, Bachaco ants, spiders, and termites.
As the International Herald Tribune puts it, “©hef Nelson Mendez’s gastronomic creations are enough to make even the most adventurous gourmand squeamish.” He bases his dishes on the cuisine of the Yanomami tribe, which continues its traditional hunting-and-gathering ways and avoids interaction with civilization. Mendez chose this tribe “because they’re the most ethnically pure.”
The Yanomami diet is rich in monkeys, snakes, tapirs, paca (a rodent weighing up to 22 pounds), and grubs. They grow a tuber called manioc, which must be leached and dried to remove the naturally occurring cyanide.
Mendez would like to eventually open up a restaurant specializing in Yanomami cuisine. “We have restaurants in Venezuela offering foods from all over the world—Spanish, Chinese, Italian—but unfortunately we don’t know anything about the cooking of our own indigenous tribes.” Of course, sourcing and transportation of these wild and unusual ingredients will prove to be a challenge.
But what does it taste like? According to the article, a diner reports that the spider croquette ”’tasted smokey and spicy,’ but ‘looked really weird with the black legs sticking out.’”
Perhaps procuring ingredients won’t be the biggest hurdle to overcome. Plating is sure to present its own challenge as well.