Tamilok is not something you might see on most menus (or if you did, not something you might necessarily jump to order). But in Palawan and Aklan, provinces of the Philippines, tamilok is a culinary delicacy enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. Did I mention that tamilok are woodworms?
Harvested from the local forests, such as Bakawan Forest in Mindoro, the tamilok are known for making their home inside the fallen branches of trees and dead wood, mainly in mangrove forests. And there are a lot of them all around the floor of the forests. Tamilok bore holes in the dead tree branches to live within the confines of the wood. But when the branches are cut open and the mollusks are exposed to sunlight and oxygen, they immediately die.
Tamilok harvesters—such as Romeo Ventura, a utility staff member at Bakawan Forest—find dead branches with the holes within, then cut them open to reveal the groups of tamilok living inside. Don’t worry, no live trees are killed in this process.
To eat tamilok, their heads, feet and stomachs must first be removed. Afterward, they are rinsed off and can be marinated in water, vinegar or lime juice, and they’re served with hot peppers. The presentation style has been compared to that of ceviche, but tamilok is its own unique dish.
Some say tamilok is similar to oysters but a little sweeter; others say it has almost a milky taste to it. Still others say it has almost a woody taste from the branches the creatures live in. But no matter what, those who have tried it agree it is a unique experience in the Philippines.
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