Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll know that once again Palawan has been decreed the “best island in the world”, although who says this and for what reason is anyone’s guess. But you cannot deny it’s a damned pretty island, and one we visit every year for our Island Hopping Tour.
Now the Good Lord surely does work in mysterious ways, and it is for this reason I feel that after God gave the Philippines immense natural beauty, he decided to even things up by giving them godawful food. Well; either God or the Americans during their time as colonial overlords. Anyway the net result is bad food; food so bad that the national dish is something called “balut” which is a fertilized duck egg complete with feathers, beak, the whole nine yards. Yum. On my latest visit to Palawan I was to discover another great culinary weirdness: tamilok and the “Tamilok Challenge”
So, what is tamilok?
So, what is culinary delight of tamilok? It’s referred to by the locals as woodworm. Thankfully it is not actually a woodworm, but a mollusc with massive teeth. Feel better now? We thought you would.
Why is it called tamilok?
Apparently 2 GIs were on Palawan during WW2 and saw some people eating woodworm, and it freaked them the hell out. One said “Tommy, look!” which became “tamilok”.
How is tamilok served?
There are two ways to eat tamilok: either as kind of ceviche – known locally as kinilaw – or you can deep-fry that bad old woodworm. Yummy!
And what does tamilok taste like?
The interwebz says that tamilok tastes a bit like oyster. It does not. It tastes like I imagine man-juice to taste if it was served in dishwater. And the deep-fried tamilok? It tastes wrong. Oh so very wrong.
What is the tamilok challenge?
The tamilok challenge is proof, if ever it was needed, that tamilok is just wrong in so many ways. If a food has the word “challenge” after it, it means that merely eating it is a challenge. That is exactly what the tamilok challenge is: can you eat it without vomiting? I managed 5. Point now proven, there is no need to eat it again. Ever.
Is tamilok the worst food on the planet?
There are foods out there a lot worse than tamilok, but really there aren’t that many. 5/7 of you pass the Tamilok Challenge.
Gareth Johnson is the founder of Young Pioneer Tours, a published writer, and all round entrepreneur. He enjoys street food, and encourage others to get paid to travel the world.