La Cocina de San Juan is located in the busy street of Ernesto Pugibet and is next to the famous market of San Juan, a gastronomic paradise over 150 years old. Pedro Felipe Hernández, current owner and manager, remembers that it was his father, originally from Hidalgo, who first sold various meats and edible insects. Later, at the request of their devout clientele, they decided to move and combine their products into exotic recipes, thus creating their original business and a beacon in the movement of pre-Hispanic cuisine.
Eating bugs is not a new topic. It is called entomophagy and for Mexicans it is an ancestral culinary practice that generates curiosity and appreciation among the various sectors of society. That said, it takes some courage to ask for a taco full of scorpions, although it ultimately turns out to be a crisp snack with a discrete acidity and very rich in protein. The venom of the animal is eliminated during the cooking process. The escamoles, or “guiso de hormiga” in Nahuatl, are humbly considered the “Mexican caviar.” They are the larvae of the ant liometopum apiculatum, highly prized by the emperor Moctezuma and harvested in underground nests defended by very aggressive guardians. Due to their delicate and creamy consistency they are a favorite of ladies, while gentlemen, as far as bugs are concerned, have a predilection for stronger flavors like that of the chinicuiles, or maguey worms, which together with the escamoles have obtained gastronomic renown in the world. The intense aroma they give off when toasting has enticed countless pedestrians and connoisseurs to enter the restaurant out of pure craving. There is no shortage of the famous chapulines, or “insects that jump like rubber balls,” or the chicatana ants of Oaxaca, that leave their nests after the first rain of the year. They are flying insects with powerful tongs and are served in casseroles with a thick and spicy sauce, mixed with garlic, salt, and lemon.
La Cocina de San Juan offers less controversial dishes, but not less extravagant. The menu of this genuine establishment includes rare vertebrates such as crocodile or wild boar and more conventional animals such as duck, pheasant, and turkey which are accompanied by various sauces and stews. Leave a subtle bite for last and try a cake made from corn and amaranth, both treasured by the ancestors.
It is assured by the United Nations Organization and supported by the traditional recipes of La Cocina de San Juan, our future food is growing antennas, and in a country where there is one third of the world’s edible insects, they know how to take advantage of them. As the saying goes: “If you jump, run or fly, to the pan!”
Hours: Every day 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Phone: 52 55 55125237
Text and Photos: Guénola Bally