Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Weird Food Wednesdays: Sago Worm

I consider myself a pretty adventurous eater but I never thought I would ever try a sago worm. Sago worms are the larvae of the giant Capricorn beetle, eaten as a high protein delicacy by native tribes in Southeast Asia. I'd only ever seen giant beetle larvae consumed on gross-out shows like Man vs Wild or Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, and never expected to encounter them in person. However, during our most recent trip to Malaysia, my Uncle Richard thought it would be funny to challenge Kris, the only "white boy" in our family, to try sago worm. So Kris jokingly accepted his challenge. We had no idea my uncle was actually serious until he showed up to dinner the next day with a bag full of sago worms (he'd trekked out to the native jungle market earlier that day to procure them for us). Unfortunately, Uncle Richard had neglected to tie the bag securely shut, so several wriggly specimens escaped (and may still be lurking in his car as adult giant beetles-yikes!) My uncle attempted to wrangle most of them back into the plastic bag, but the worms put up a valiant fight and poor Uncle Richard was bit a couple times by their sharp pincers. You wouldn't think it, but Sago worms are cute little suckers - I held one in my hand briefly after it was caught and it stood up (well, as much as a worm can stand) and stared intensely at me. Alas, only 4 worms survived the prison break, but Kris heaved a huge sigh of relief when my aunt refused to cook them in her frying pan saying that she'd have to throw it out afterwards. Unfortunately for Kris, my aunt (goaded on by my mischevious cousins) had a sudden change of heart when we got back to her house - these worms were hittin' the frying pan! We weren't sure how long to cook them, but we figured they were done when they stopped wringling around, deflated slightly, and started to get crispy. I have to admit that I was a little nervous at this point but I showed no fear as I ripped the head and pincers off, popped the sucker in my mouth, and began to chew. Even with no salt, oil, or other seasonings added, the sago worm was surprisingly tasty - like a sweet oily piece of shrimp. The sweetness made sense because sago worms feed off the sweet starchy pulp of the sago palm, which is what tapioca is made from! Poor Kris chickened out, donating his worm to one of my willing cousins (and he still regrets that decision to this very day). I've been told sago worms taste even better raw, but I won't be testing that theory myself anytime soon. Don't worry Kris, you'll get your chance again one day...