Norway has always done things a little differently. From breaks every 45 minutes during school lessons to legislating policies after oil was found to give Norwegians long-term wealth, to its sustainable culinary traditions, its a country of preservation and local empowerment.

And while its capital city Oslo is famous for its eco-friendly approach to food, there is one restaurant taking the term ‘locally sourced’ to a new level.

Maaemo, the first Norwegian restaurant ever to receive three Michelin stars, serves ants in place of lemons. That’s right, lemons don’t grow in Norway, so its head chef and co-owner Esben Holmboe Bang, uses local ants instead.

“Yes, we do serve wood ants, they have a delicious acidic lemongrass flavour that we are unable to get from anything else,” Bang told The Bob Edit.

“Luckily we live in a city that is so close to nature that we can have a relationship with our produce,” said Bang in an interview with Visit Oslo.

Bang says the ants have a lot of the same qualities as lemons – “it’s just they’re a bit more aggressive than lemons.”

Esben Holmboe Bang getting ants
Esben Holmboe Bang sourcing ants for his restaurant in Oslo

Bang, who is originally from Denmark but moved to Oslo for love, has helped put Norwegian food firmly on the culinary map. Having opened the restaurant in 2010, he’s currently the youngest (at 35) and northernmost chef to hold three Michelin stars.

The restaurant’s name Maaemo, is old Norse for ‘Mother Earth’ or ‘all that is living’, and its menu is famed globally – it’s even tapped as one of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Your waiter can tell you the area, the supplier, and even the farm where the food is from, and Esben Holmboe Bang often handpicks the ants himself.

Unsure of who would pay to have ants on their meal? With only eight tables seating 30 guests, it’s an exclusive affair for those able to spend upwards of AU$870 for the degustation and wine pairings – hence Martha Stewart’s glowing review of the restaurant in February this year following her nearly 20-course dinner.

Maaemo wood ants
Source: Foodie Stories by Anders Husa

Watch Esben Holmboe Bang source wood ants for his menu at Maaemo:

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