Two Caucasians were vacationing in Palawan when they spotted local Batak tribesmen digging out these slimy, worm-looking things from rotting mangrove wood and eating them.
Shocked, one of the men shouted to his companion:
“Look! Tommy, look!”
According to the urban legend, this was how this bivalve mollusk came to be known as tamilok in Palawan. Tommy, look…tamilok…get it? 😆 An amusing story though I can’t verify its accuracy.
Commonly known as “ship worms” or “wood worms”, they resemble worms but are actually saltwater clams with tiny shells. Sometimes referred to as “termites of the sea”, they’re notorious for boring into and feasting on rotting wood submerged in sea water, such as dead mangrove roots, piers, even wooden ships.
Not exactly the most appetizing-looking creatures, they resemble foot-long worms, are the color of ash mixed with snot, and engorge themselves on decaying wood. The brave soul that first thought of eating these squirmy things must have been Bear-Grylls-like famished, or totally insane.
I’ve been dying to try this exotic delicacy ever since I saw it on an episode of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. Unable to find any during our recent trip to Coron, Palawan, I was ecstatic to finally get my chance here in Puerto Princesa.
Growing to an adult length of over 12 inches, they’re eaten raw and flavored only by a calamansi, vinegar, onion, and chili dipping sauce. I like mine kicking and screaming so I add a few drops of hot sauce as well.
Tasting far better than it looks, the tamilok is milky and sweet, with a slightly gummy texture that’s very similar to oysters, hence the title “the world’s longest oyster.” When eaten fresh, it can sometimes have a subtle wood pulp flavor that’s surprisingly palatable.
Hands down one of the oddest things I’ve ever put in my mouth, tamilok, despite its grotesque apperance, is delicious.
L: “That’s what sheeee saaaid…” 😆 R: Eating the foot-long tamilok is difficult, so it’s common practice to slice them up into more manageable, bite-size portions.
And down the hatch you go my pretty…
There’s me chowing down on this most exotic delicacy like a boss. 😉
CLICK HERE to see how they look freshly harvested from dead wood. I know, right? 😆
Tamilok is definitely something that you need to try if you ever find yourself in Puerto Princesa. Like it or not, it’s guaranteed to be an experience that you won’t soon forget. If you’re a little squeemish, just think of them as nature’s gummy worms. They’ll go down easier. 😉
More on Palawan
A New Natural Wonder in Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Underground River, Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Palawan Mangrove Forest
Sheridan Beach Resort and Spa
The Edge of the World
Corals, Cliffs, and Crustaceans in Coron, Palawan
Kayangan Lake, Coron, Palawan
Ay kay Layo ng Lamayo!
JB and Renée are the Traveleaters behind Will Fly for Food, a travel blog for the gastronomically inclined. They enjoy experiencing food from different cultures so they’ve made it their mission to try every country’s national dish. Read more about them and their National Dish Quest here.