Any food that has “challenge” in it usually means that is really bad! Examples include things like hakarl in Iceland – so, once again I was in Palawan to do the Tamilok challenge.
But, what is Tamilok and just how bad his it? Here’s The Street Food Guy’s guide.
What is Tamilok?
Well people call it woodworm, but that is not technically correct. In fact Tamilok is a mollusk that has teeth so strong that it bore through steel, rather than just mere wood. Yes this is a steelworm, not just a wood muncher.
I’m sure this means it is also a whole different animal, but lets talk food, not biology here!
Why do they eat tamilok?
In Palawan, and particularly in Puerta Princessa this is a traditional street food, or rather beach food they you get from vendors. It is considered really good for you from a health point of view, but also “good for the man”. Why does very gross food like balut, supposedly give you an erection?
I checked this with one of the guests and he said all it gave him were the shits, alas I was alone and unable to test the aphrodisiacal properties of tamilok.
Can you get tamilok in restaurants?
You most certainly can and as a delicacy there are restaurants that actually specials in it. Principal among these restaurants is Kinabuchs, which is not only near to Blue Lagoon Hotel, but is also one of the best restaurants in Puerto Princessa.
Do not worry if eating ship worm is not your thing, they have great fish dishes, such as kinilaw, as well as humble hamburger if that is all you need.
How do they serve Tamilok?
You basically get two choices, so obviously I chose both. One is eating it raw, like a ceviche, while there is also a deep fried option which is super spicy to eat and is basically a deep fried worm.
Both of these are very different and indeed disgusting in their own ways…
The Tamilok challenge
The challenge is fairly simple, can you eat this at all;, and if you can just how many can you monster down one sitting?
And it is very much a thing with YouTube, Instagram and now of course TikTok having numerous videos of people attempting the challenge.
Full disclosure, I have been coming to Palawan for ten years, so this was not my first try of tamilok.
What does tamolok taste like?
People say that the raw version tastes of oyster, it does not. It ha the texture of snot, tastes slimy and many have opined it tastes a little like “man milk”. I personally would not be able to comment on that.
And then there is the deep-fried version, which I used to think was worse, but am now in amide ground about. The deep fried tamilok is less slimy, but with you already knowing what is inside is still gross. This means you cannot just swallow it whole, unless you dip it in the spicy sauce and make it soggy, which is even more gross….
Check out my TiTok here.
Oh and deep fried Tamil is also really god damned socio, although in this context it was probably the best thing about the dish.
So, that in essence is the tamilok challenge! I am personally glad I did it, but this is no acquired taste, this is just not good! I feel few will try and get this at a later date, but hey humans are a strange bunch!
Want to try it yourself? Then why not join me in Palawan for an island hopping, as well as a bit of food based tour.