Award-winning chef serves creepy crawlies at Xochi in Houston

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Don't bug out! These dishes by Chef Hugo Ortega at Xochi are pretty good. (KTRK)

Chef Hugo Ortega is dishing out a delicacy only the bravest are willing to try at his new restaurant, Xochi.

The James Beard award-winning chef features several menu items that list insects among their key ingredients.

The Queso del Rancho is house-made cheese served with chicharrones, and topped with a trio of insects, including:
  • chicatanas (ants)
  • gusanos (worms), and
  • chapulines (grasshoppers)

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The Mole de Chicatana is a steak prepared with a sauce made of ground ants. Even a margarita on the menu is served with salt made with gusanos.

"I try to explain to them, and I try to convert them to the Oaxacan food," Ortega said, with a laugh.

For those who do not have an iron stomach, Xochi also offers a variety of more mainstream specialties from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, like masa dumplings, moles, and tlayudas, a tortilla with savory toppings baked in the oven.

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Eating insects is a great way to add key nutrients to your diet.

Ortega just won the prestigious James Beard Award, the highest honor in the food world, and now he's on a mission to shine a spotlight on the cuisine of his childhood.

"To get the real regional specialties from his home is wonderful," diner Elizabeth Swift said.

Ortega believes that Houston - and our diverse population - is more ready than ever to embrace new flavors.

"This is my tribute to the great oaxacan cuisine, that it can be eaten and enjoyed by all of us," Ortega said.

Xochi is located in the Marriott Marquis, downtown at 1777 Walker Street.

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