Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Tamilok Experience

Only for the brave and adventurous. Sabi nila.

The tamilok or 'woodworm' thrives on rotten mangroves. They grow to more than a foot long and are a delicacy in Palawan. Although it looks like a worm, it is actually a mollusk-- like a long, - very looong oyster. At Kinabuch's, in Pto. Princesa, this is one of the best-selling and highly sought after pulutan. After Lola's 89th birthday celebration yesterday, the young 'uns (kami yon), me, my cousins Ian and Lala, her boyfriend Johann, and my Tito Dante headed over to this famous watering hole.  Tamilok is best eaten fresh, according to our family's tamilok-expert Lala, straight from the rotten mangroves, cleaned, then dipped in vinegar-- the ultimate gastronomical experience especially when on island hopping, or on trips to Sabang or the Underground River. Some restaurants here serve it kilawin style-- with vinegar, chilies, onions, and calamansi (that, I definitely know I can handle!).

Lala would take nearly a foot-long tamilok and eat it. Her boyfriend Johann, who is half-Filipino, half-Belgian, would take a long one and chew it first. "Does it break down to pieces when you chew it?" I asked. "Hindi," he says. "Buo pa rin siya". OMG. Parang rubber pa ata. I could imagine why others would just swallow it in one gulp followed by gin or tuba. They pushed the plate in front of me--took a picture of it, photogenic siya! Reminds me of regular oysters lang. Taking a closer look, it does have those two whachamacallit eyes like that of an oyster or a scallop/mussel. Kaya ko ito.

For photo-op, I took a long one-- all smiles pa ako. Panay kantiaw na ng mga pinsan ko. Summoning all my strength didn't do me any good. Despite the eyes, it still looks like a worm.

I settled for a two-inch long instead. But what happens next is priceless---. When it touches your tongue, it does have a feel and texture of an oyster-- but the difference is that it's slimy and you'd immediately taste the smell of seaweeds and mud (that's my opinion).  There's a feeling of gag-reflex (if you'd term it that way), which may be one reason why tomadors wash it down with gin.  It's like eating a very, very slimy, and thickier fetuccini and it gets stuck half down your throat. And to think I just tried a measely two-inch one. If you like oysters, you'll like this :-)

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