Palawan’s Tamilok Is Not a Bizarre Delicacy

Maybe not Bizarre for me

The word tamilok evokes a fear factor kind of reaction from locals and international tourists. Nonetheless, this is among “normal food” when I was growing up because my mother loves it. It is common among early settlers of Puerto Princesa to buy this either from the market during the 90’s. I remember peddlers carrying gallons of their “tamilok” harvest stopping by house to house offering 1 liter of this tasty delicacy for… I think even less than 100 pesos.

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It is served raw on our table and I doubt there is someone in our household who doesn’t know how to dissect this worm before eating. Delicious!

Times changed. What once was a normal food became an exotic delicacy sought after by tourists to try. I don’t see peddlers walking around selling this anymore. I rarely see it in the market as well. If there are, it is not the same long and thick woodworms that I enjoyed eating when I was younger, or rather not as fresh as they are served in our dining table in the past.

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I heard Kinabuch offers this delicacy. For tourists, it’s the place to get it. I tried ordering once or twice, but they served it frozen. Kind of weird, I remember ours to be refrigerated but never frozen. I like it fresh!

What is tamilok anyway?

Let’s do biology for a bit and I will try to describe tamilok not ghastly like how it sounds in other travel blogs.

It goes with the names of, shipworm and woodworm. Probably because of its appearance. If you ask me, it resembles an umbilical cord. Oh sorry, I said I am not going to describe it gruesome. They may fall as worm species to the lay but they actually aren’t. Tamilok is actually of clam family. Unlike their clam cousins, tamilok prefers to look like a naked snake. They have a hard round shell-like head that they use to bore through submerged wood. That is their food and habitat.

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In Palawan, tamilok is usually harvested in natural driftwoods within mangrove forests. They thrive in old submerged putrid trunks of mangroves.

When eating tamilok make sure:

  1. It is fresh, if you are a first timer, how would you know right? Fresh or frozen is fine, so if you are trying it in a restaurant, better. If you have a friend who is local and really eats tamilok, maybe he/she knows where to get fresh ones. Fresh is going to taste a lot better than the frozen. Nonetheless, do not gamble your stomach’s health.
  2. It is clean. Eat tamilok only from a reliable source. You see, these creatures are not found easy and usually coming from barrios outskirts of Puerto Princesa. Better be safe, we have no way of telling if storage used to transport them are clean enough. They are usually transported together with salt water, that is important to keep them fresh.
  3. Not for someone who is allergic to shellfish. As I have mentioned it is from a clam family. Don’t try even a little if you have very low tolerance to shellfish. It might cause allergic reactions.

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How does it really taste?

This time it doesn’t taste like chicken like they say most exotic foods does. It tastes similar to oysters. The raw ocean-woodish taste of tamilok though is very distinct, so I wouldn’t say it tastes totally like oyster.

It’s not exotic for me, really its delicious. To give you an even weirder picture of my childhood, I eat this with rice.

This post got me thinking whether I should head to the market tomorrow and get some from the market. I wonder if they have a good supply tomorrow. Only one way to find out. Ill check it out and maybe update this post.

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