Ark of taste
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Tamilok is often called a woodworm, but technically it is a mollusk that is among a group of saltwater clams without a shell. It has also been called a shipworm or a sea termite, stemming from an old tale that it was an enemy of wood-hulled ships of long ago, as it destroyed wood hulls by boring and eating their way through the wood, any kind of wood actually as long as it is immersed in sea water.
Tamilok is a local food fare in communities around mangrove areas in the Philippines. But it is not a regular on the dinner table since it is quite difficult to get. One has to wade through muddy and slippery river or sea bed amid the mangoves in order to find submerged dead rotting mangrove wood in which the tamilok can be found.
It tastes like oyster, but even better, many attest. It is eaten fresh and raw, dipped in coconut vinegar (sukang tuba) with salt and chili.
While tamilok has long been utilized as food by locals in communities near mangrove forests, of late, it has become quite popular among tourists going to Palawan. Thus, harvesting of this worm is now being done for commercial purposes and the tamilok is now being touted as an "exotic food".
There is valid concern that overharvesting of tamilok for tourism purposes might disturb mangrove ecosystems in the province, particularly in areas frequented by visitors like the Underground River in Sabang, Puerto Princesa City. Thus, there is a need for greater vigilance and advocacy in preserving mangrove areas and other marine resources.
Prepared and eaten as ceviche in local communities, Tamilok is served particularly during gatherings, marriages and celebrations among families and friends.
There are now restaurants that try other ways of preparation or cooking like "crispy frying" or as omelettes.

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