‘Crunchy, earthy, grassy’ cicada tacos back on menu in Leesburg restaurant

If you’ve run out of lunch or dinner ideas, cicada tacos are back on the menu at Cocina on Market, a Mexican cantina in Leesburg, Virginia.

Chef de Cuisine Tobias Padovano tells WTOP the insect edible returned to the menu earlier this week, after the local health department told him to stop serving them until he received the cicadas from an approved food source.

“We are getting them from Dubai,” in the United Arab Emirates, said Padovano. “There’s a market there that has dried insects, and one of the insects they have is dried cicadas.”

Importing cicadas 7,046 miles is a far cry from foraging for Brood X cicadas flooding the historic town of Leesburg. Brood X comes out every 17 years.

“They also have them in Thailand as well, but they were completely sold out,” said Padovano.

Cicada tacos are served at Cocina on Market, in Leesburg, Virginia. (Courtesy Tobias Padovano)

Padovano had been planning on creating cicada tacos, but hadn’t served them before.

“When the big brood came around 17 years ago, I wasn’t thinking about cooking insects, I was just kind of learning my craft,” Padovano said. ”

Since we use grasshoppers all the time in our kitchen, which we get from Mexico, we decided to jump right into cicada tacos, and it worked really well.”

What makes a good cicada taco?

“The biggest thing is the dehydration, because you don’t want a squishy moment,” Padovano said. “It’s not as nice as a taste.”

More Cicada News

Once the cicada is dehydrated: “I do a quick, little sauté of the cicadas with some onions, garlic and a little bit of serrano chilis. I’ve got a little avocado, some mole verde, and a little bit of fresh radish to finish it off.”

“You get a nice crunch factor from them. Very earthy, grassy flavor. I love them a lot. I think they’re super tasty,” Padovano said.

As for pairing cicada tacos: “Probably one of the younger mezcals,’ a cousin of Tequila, both are made from the agave plant. “Something that’s not super smoky or super aged.”

Like Brood X, Padovano said cicada tacos won’t last long on the menu: “They’re back up and running again, for the next couple of weeks.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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