No, it’s not a worm. It’s the first 4.5 feet of the chicken’s bowels that is highly popular and sought for in the barbecue scene all over the Philippines. However gruesome this might be to you. Barbecue stands often run out of this long chewy but savory piece of chicken innards call Isaw. The small intestines is the first level of absorption of grounded food from the stomach of the chicken. It is where corn, rice, pellet feed are all mixed up and is ready to be absorved into the chicken’s body. When vendors prepare Isaw. They do not remove grounded food in the intestine. They clean the intestines externally really well, but they won’t drain the inside of it. Growing up. I have eaten this delicacy and still continue to do so whenever I have the chance. Back then, it was just starting to be a fad and it was always available in any barbecue stand we had in town. Now a days, its gotten very popular that sometimes. It’s no longer available in the mix. If you’re going to try Isaw. Make sure that it’s fresh and properly marinated with the local barbecue sauce and the most important thing is that make sure that its cooked thoroughly. Order it with rice and the dipping sauce with vinegar, soy sauce, red pepper and calamansi and its nirvana. It’s actually really good if you’re into that kind of stuff. But if you’re just a curious eater. I think you will like it as long as you stop thinking about what it is.
Day Old Chick. I’m sure the picture is very self-explanatory. In the 16 years that I lived in the Philippines. I only saw this one time in Manila and I was scared to try it. I ended up trying it in my classmates birthday party and I couldn’t turn them down. So here’s the jizz of this little chickens life story. It’s a baby chicken, nothing special there. Its marinated in the same marinade they use for the big chickens. The marinade they use is really really good. I had to pay my favorite barbecue vendor to get the recipe which i’ll talk about later in another blog. You’ll usually see the big chicken thighs, chicken feet or chicken intestines displayed stuck on a banana stem in most barbecue stands. It’s not a usual fare and its not very common in the provinces but readily available in big cities all over the Philippines. In my moment of truth, I was surprised to find out how good it actually tasted. This is comes in various offerings. They come fried, grilled, barbecued, adobo’ed etc… However you cook a chicken, you can cook this little’un the same way. The big difference is the texture of the meat. It soft and very tasty. If not for the beastly appearance. This is actually good eating. If you’re visiting and want to be a little adventurous. Try this delicacy. Hey, its bragging rights. Take a bite and take a selfie.
Etag– is the term used by the Igorot tribes for preserving meat. Just like Ham, Pork meat or venison is salted and hanged to dry or smoke for a couple of days until its ready to be consumed. This process has been used by the Igorot tribes and has been passed down from one generation to the next. The process will have slight variations from tribe to tribe but in General its smoked or dried in the sun or both. When they smoke the meat, they will use wood or aromatic leaves to enhance the flavor and the smell of the meat. When sun-dried, etag will sometimes have maggots in the meat because when they dry it in open air.
Flies will come in and lay their eggs. Some of the ones I’ve seen are covered in fungus. According to the local tribes in the Benguet, Baguio and Mountain Province. Etag is more valuable if it’s preserved for a long time. The meat turns a little darker brown in color and the flavors are deeper and more subtle therefore its more expensive in the market. The meat in general is served grilled over rice or it can be accompanied in soups and other vegetable dishes.
Due to the salt on the surface of the meat. Etag is sometimes washed and soaked in water to reduces the brininess of the meat. Nowadays, Etag is sold in the markets of Manila. If the description is a little scary to you. Don’t worry. Most of the meat in Manila are done in a controlled environment. They are not made in the mountains of the Cordilleras or in the Mountain Provinces where the local tribes have to resort to what they have available to process the meat. There are some that make it in the Markets.
So when you are interested in diving in this cuisine make sure you ask questions and cook the meat well to avoid any gastric complications.
Tamilok– is a wood worm that is commonly found among rotting logs along intercoastal zones mostly in mangrove flats. This Philippine delicacy is highly sought. It is hard to come by and its a task to get it but according to the locals. Its all worth the effort. Tamilok or shipworms are marine bivalve molluscs and are closely related to your saltwater clams than to an actual worm. They are very good at boring into untreated wood immersed in sea water. Tamilok can grow to a couple centimeters to a meter in length depending on the species. So, yes they’re scary looking and not really very visually appetizing, but the locals swear by it. I actually had the courage to try this savory, wormy and slimy delicacy just to appease my friends who introduced me to the creature and low and behold. It actually tasted good. So if you eat mussels or any type of shellfish. You’re going to like the taste. Its very similar except for the occasional taste of wood when its not properly cleaned.
There’s different ways to eat the thing. The most common way is prepare it like Ceviche and soak it in vinegar and lemon juice then add a red pepper and bon apetit. Oh, make sure you have immodium with you before you try it. You might get the $#?T$. Now if you decided that eating wood worm is going to be a habit and you want to quantify the serving for a more satisfying lunch. This wood worm have a big cousin that might be able to satisfy your needs.
Giant Tamilok in its Shell
There is this Giant Tamilok that can be found in Kalamansig Sultan Kudarat. The local fishermen accidentaly discovered this giant specimen when they were spearfishing. The area where he was fishing used to be in front of a big lumber operation that was no longer in business but during its operational days. Some of the big lumber it processes sunk in the ocean in front of the plant that later on attracted these giants. They tried eating it and found that it tasted just like shellfish. That’s how this local delicacy started in Kalamansig. Just like Andrew Zimmern said. If it doesn’t kill you. Eat it.
Lukot – This weird food was a mystery to me for decades. I’ve eaten it time and time again but could not figure out what species of ocean dwelling plant or creature it came from. My first impression was that it was some sort of sea weed. That’s how the locals are advertising it as. I really don’t think they know where it came from either. They just know that its edible.
I finally had it when I could not get the answer I was looking for from the vendors as to where its origins came from so I started my research and found out that this delicacy actually came from a sea slug called “Dunsol” in the local dialect. Its scientific name is (Dolabella Auricularia) that lives in sea grass beds and the reef. You can find the eggs during low tide or you can dive in the grass beds to gather them or just do what I do. I get them from the Market. They’re mostly available year round but there are times where you will have to revert to the gathering part. The egg sacs will come in different colors
due to the macro algae (sea weeds) that the Sea Hare eats. Although the eggs are edible. The actual animal is actually quite toxic. Just like the puffer fish “Fugu” in Japan. You can eat Dunsol as long as you know how to clean it. Most of the toxins are in the innards. The sea slug does not have the ability to produce the toxins themselves so the toxins it has in its body comes from the food it consumes. In Fiji, the villagers eat sea hares regularly and have not had any reported casualties. They clean the animal thoroughly and remove innards. If you want to dive into tasting this wonderful animal, make sure you clean it well or give the task to the locals who knows the process of cleaning it. I would probably stick to the eggs. They taste wonderful in soups, salads and ceviche’s.
Balot – One of the most googled foods in the internet. The famous savory unborn chicken or duck still in its egg called Balot. Yeah, yeah I know, I know. This looked like a freaky scene from an alien movie and the thought that this is a delicacy is a little scary and you would ask yourself the question why would people eat this? Before we answer that question. Lets look back in time and find out where Balot came from. I don’t want to bore you with wikipedia material but i’ll give a short historical background of how Balot came about to the Philippines. Chinese Traders introduced this delicacy to the Philippines in the 17th century and was adopted locally to become one of the most common street food in the Philippines. There you go. Now I know most of you are not going to visit the Philippines just to eat Balot but I can tell you that if you want an ice breaker. Gobble one of this down and follow it with a good bottle of San Miguel beer and you will have a crowd cheering your name and maybe get a date. Just kidding. There’s a process to eating balot. You have to select the heaviest egg from the bunch to make sure its juicy. Peel the butt end of the balot just enough to expose the contents but make sure to not spill the soup. Drink the soup and slowly peel the rest of the egg to expose the embryo. Dip it with the offering sause, either a vinegar mix or salt and pepper, then take the whole thing in one bite. If you think you won’t be able to handle the visual experience. Don’t look at the contents. Just put it in your mouth and enjoy. It doesn’t taste like what you think it is. Its actually good. Taste just like chicken.