History and Culture
How To Develop A Taste For Coconut Worms
Choose Philippines | Nov 13, 2019
Story and photos by Rizza A. Mostar
In Barangay Duang Niog, Libmanan, Camarines Sur, the coconut tree is considered the tree of life. From roots to fruits, it is a major source of income for locals, including a worm that feeds on the trunks of fallen coconut trees.
Meet the Ulalo or coconut worm, a larva of the Black Beetle that grows bigger than a human thumb. This white, translucent wriggler is considered an exotic local delicacy in Southeast Asia, according to hiker and rescuer Jojo Villareal. “In other countries, they are eaten fresh after soaking them in water overnight,” he reveals, adding that these edible crawlers can also be used as an emergency food source. “They are rich in protein, so they can be eaten if lost or if regular food is scarce in the jungle.”
Sourcing them out is easy, according to local tour guide Toto Albuero. First, look for rotting coconut logs. Next, check if the wood is powdery and soft, a telltale sign of ulalo.
The carefully gathered worms are then prepped for cooking by a quick rinsing and thorough removal of their guts. After which, the Ulalo’s chewy and cheesy meat can be cooked in three ways.
[related: Puyoy: Would You Dare Eat These Worms?]
It can be fried, with only a sprinkling of salt as an embellishment to its natural flavors, the crackle of its exoskeleton revealing the gooeyness within.
It can be cooked as an adobo, stewed in a mixture of garlic, soy sauce, vinegar and laurel leaves.
The most recommended method, however, is to char them over an open flame. Mobbed with garlic, bell peppers and tomatoes enhance its taste, the smokiness lends a distinct characteristic to the ulalo’s slippery flesh.
The rewards of biting into a delicacy such as ulalo can be challenging to many but definitely worth the experience for those brave enough to try.