Tamilok is a form of woodworm eaten on the Filipino Island of Palawan, and as you can imagine, it has quite a unique taste.
It is is food, so, well, how to say unique that eating it is considered a “challenge.” Google the Tamilok challenge, and you find numerous videos of people knocking back these slimy little creatures!
Tamilok is one of those foods that along with hakarl regularly makes it onto most “rank food” lists. But, just how bad is it really? We did the only reasonable thing we could and went to try it.
So what is Tamilok?
It is not actually woodworm, but a mollusk that has teeth that are so powerful it can bite through metal, hardcore shit! Colloquially it is known as a woodworm though, because it is basically a worm that does eat wood.
Why is it called Tamilok?
Apparently, two American GI’s who were fighting Japanese Imperialism were on Palawan, one guy saw someone eating it, and said “Tommy look,” the locals heard it as Tamilok, and thus a legend was born!
How the rest of the conversation went is anyone’s guess, but I like to think at least one of them said “Don’t eat it”.
Where is Tamilok from?
As stated, the Philippines, but more specifically Palawan Island. Palawan is regularly voted the best island in the world, do not worry there is much more to the place than this rather special dish!
How is it served?
Either raw as a kinilaw which is a Filipino ceviche or they are deep-fried. I was brave enough to try both. Which is my favourite? Neither, but there was one I at least hated less than the other one.
Many of the top restaurants in Palawan serve it as a delicacy, but you will also see it being sold by hawkers on the beach. This dish was originally intended as a cheap easy street food.
How does it taste?
Many people compare the taste to that of an Oyster, I kind of get where people are coming from on this, but sadly no, it does not taste like an oyster. If you get raw tamilok and manage to eat at least two pieces, then I tip my hat to you, as I could not.
The plus point about the raw vs the deep fried versions is that you can “down” the raw one and claim victory. The deep-fried version needs to be chewed. If you are doing the tamilok challenge for the kudos than go raw, rather than deep-fried.
Can YOU eat Tamilok?
The short answer is that of course you can eat Tamilok and people have been consuming it in these parts for a very long time. It won’t kill you. Whether you can eat it though is down to how strong your stomach is.
Maybe I am not the benchmark for this as I love a food challenge, but whilst I find it not very nice, there are certainly many many worse and more sigusting foods out there. So, yes you can eat it. Whether YOU can eat it, is of course down to you!
And what about this Tamilok challenge?
As stated before, and in my humble opinion, it is relatively putrid, or rather very putrid, also quite slimy. Eating it is a genuine challenge, so people film themselves doing for shits and giggles. It is essential to have a hobby after all…..
The challengs is all over YouTube and easy enough to find. In case you are too damned lazy we have embedded a link for you though.
Where can I eat this dish?
With it being considered a delicacy, you will find it in upmarket restaurants in Puerta Princessa (the capital of Palawan). Tamilok is also street food, and you will see hawkers knocking it out, particularly around the beaches that surround PP – not to be confused with Phnom Penh.
Does anyone actually like Tamilok?
Many weird foods are born through necessity rather than people actually liking them, such as the previously mentioned hakarl, which means they tend to live on more for the tourist market, rather than locals. Tamilok fits a bit in the middle here. My friends from Palawan insist on just how amazing the dish is and of course good for the man and as previously mentioned it is available for purchase right from the beach.
With that being said though when you head to the tourist restaurants where the dish has been somewhat gentrified then it tends to be served to tourists, be they local, or foreign. Regardless though if you have the stomach for it then no trip to Palawan is complete without trying this dish at least once.
I want to to try Tamilok!
Then join our yearly Island Hopping Tour – this has been a YPT mainstay for almost 8 years now and when we visit Puerta Princessa then you will get the chance to have a try at this slimy delicacy!.