The Peruvian chiopas: These unknown caterpillars tasting like seafood !
It is in the Peruvian jungle, few hours from Lima, where the native shimabenzo community lives. Other than its name, this community eats chiopas ! these caterpillars are similar to shea caterpillars or mopane worms from Africa. They are little known, so unknown that we did not manage to find their scientific name ! (notice to experts ! Reward : our full recognition 😉)
We had the chance to meet members of the shimabenzo community and to live two days with them. We are now sharing with you our exciting experience. We will detail the different steps in preparing these caterpillars, which differentiate from their counterparts !
Harvesting chipoas is a difficult task restricted to women from the community. Women usually live at early morning with their canvas bag to collect the caterpillars. They often find them on the leaves of palm trees which they eat… or even gorge on! Indeed, caterpillars are full of ground leaves purée which will be taken off before eating them.
Curious and full of enthusiasm, we learned how to prepare these freshly collected caterpillars “waddling” at the bottom of the canvas bag. We quickly realized that 3 qualities were necessary to well-prepare chiopas :
- Not being sensitive
- Being patient
- And the most important, having nails ! you will understand why soon…
Indeed, women split chiopas in two parts, using only their nails to then press the body and taking the intestines full of pre-chewed palm leaves off! You can discover by yourself how much these caterpillars are voracious on the picture above.
Now you know why your nails are your best friends the day you want to prepare caterpillars!
Not being sensitive is essential, indeed, women from the community open caterpillars when they are still alive ! But don’t worry, once sliced in two, they die in few seconds…
Then you need to be patient because it is a tedious work. Indeed, women prepare caterpillars one by one.
Once all caterpillars are gutted, we washed them few times before cooking them in salted boiled water, as for pastas! After 5 minutes, we removed them from the heat and put them in a big plate. Caterpillars were ready to be tasted!
It is with little apprehension at start, and under the amused community eyes that we approached the first caterpillar to our mouth. But soon gustatory pleasure replaced the apprehension. Indeed, chiopas taste like shrimps !! surprising, isn’t it ? Although they are a little more rubbery than these insects from the sea, they are still very easy to eat.
We even helped ourselves multiple times, making sure not to eat caterpillar heads, which are very hard. We had the chance to share an incredible moment with the community members who usually eat the caterpillars with yuca.
Relaxed and recharged with oxygen, the head full of memories and traditions, we left the next day to Lima and its 10 billions inhabitants.
The Bug Trotters