08 Apr2014

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Kinilaw na Ambilang. Ceviche of foreskin. Bad sounding translation for an appetizer, I know. Maybe better to say Ceviche of Sandworms. :)

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Sand worms are a Visayan (or possibly nationwide) connoisseurs or beachcombers delicacy, also referred to as sasing, balat pisot, or sunlutan — and are described as sweet tasting, with a softer-than-raw squid-like consistency. I tried to buy a few ambilang to taste, but the foragers were coy about their pricing. So I ended up simply observing and photographing them at work.

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Teenagers or young adults were combing the beach (particularly good to do at low tide) in front of our hotel in Panglao, suddenly stopping when they spied a nearly indiscernible depression or slight indentation in the sand (with no hole), apparently a potential sign of a sand worm dwelling below, then digging furiously with a knife or piece of wood, holding a bamboo barbecue stick in their other hand. Many times they would walk away, unable to trap their prey…

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…but perhaps on one to out of every four attempts, they would swiftly grab one end of the sand worm, impale it on a barbecue stick, reach deep into the hole and slowly extract the sand worm whole. Pulling it too quickly would snap it in two, I was told.

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Here a close-up of a hand already hanging on to a sand worm in the depths…

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…then the sand worm pulled out, already impaled on a stick. The sand worm is then violently flipped against the packed sand, it’s ends sliced off (effectively a double ended circumcision a staff member back at the office graphically described the move) its guts pushed out and the skin turned inside out, ready to eat after a quick rinse in sea water.

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Alternatively, you add some chopped onions, tomatoes and ginger, a splash of vinegar and season with salt and pepper and you have a perfectly delicious (I am assured, I never got to taste the sand worms) starter or main course, served with steamed rice. I make this sound rather forager/romantic, but the truth of the matter is, so many folks forage to EAT and provide BASIC NOURISHMENT for their bodies in the province. They do this out of both necessity and desire to eat this particular treat. This was a relatively free meal for folks, as are sea urchins, boiled live shell meats, etc. are as well. But a good hour’s work went into collecting a few dozen worms, for say 5-6 guys to eat.

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I have been writing this blog for nearly 10 years straight now, with a few weeks off here and there. There are nearly 3,800 posts in the archives, and it ALWAYS AMAZES me how that is just a teeny tiny fraction of all the food related things out there in the Philippine archipelago that should be documented and written about.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. bearhug0127 says:

    Great to see you back online MM. However, I was able to access your site only thru your twitter account as when i google “market manila” it does not show on the results. I know you were back on line since I was able to access your site earlier, but just now, I cannot find you on google again. Just relieve to know you are back!

    Apr 8, 2014 | 10:25 am

     
  2. baktin says:

    Now I know where sasing comes from or what it is in the first place. A lapad of these guys is very, very cheap indeed when you know how laborious it is to catch even a single one.

    I thought your site had a DOS attack of some sort. I’m glad it wasn’t the case. Welcome back.

    Apr 8, 2014 | 10:38 am

     
  3. Marie M. says:

    Hello Marketman!

    I am so relieved that you are back!!! I was really, really sad that I might have missed your announcement to go into another long break from Market Manila ~ maybe to concentrate on Zubuchon, enjoy some quiet time, or finally need time writing that much awaited BOOK! Maybe, you decided to have another “need a password to read” again, which I missed by a few hours last time… I kept thinking “But he can’t just Quit!” what would I ever do!?! Or ” Marketman wouldn’t do that” ! I was really hoping it’s due to some technical issue. After all, I have been a loooooong time reader, avid fan, worshipper, fish fan appreciator, silent lurker – who reads all, and I mean all of your posts with all the comments and everything for as long as you have been writing this blog! I realized I have yet to say “THANK YOU” for Market Manila and how you start, sustain and end my days, wherever I may be, rain or shine, in sickness and in health…and I have yet to write my first ever comment… You don’t even know I exist! So, thank you, MM, very much. My dream is to someday go home, make a special trip to Cebu, eat @ Zubuchon for breakfast, lunch and dinner, try your Duhat or Kamias shake, buy anything and everything that I can freeze and fit in a Balikbayan box and maybe have you sign my copy of the Market Manila Book. I am hoping and looking forward to that day! ;-)

    Apr 8, 2014 | 10:50 am

     
  4. millet says:

    posts like this always leave me wondering who ever thought of catching and eating (let alone how to do it) them in the first place? i’ve always wondered about how these would taste like, but i never mustered enough guts. ;-)

    Apr 8, 2014 | 10:57 am

     
  5. Marie M. says:

    I forgot to add – This post is one perfect example of the many reasons why i read your blog. I miss so many things from the Philippines esp. local fruits and vegetables, fish, etc. that only you bother to write about. Market Manila is my home away from home. Mabuhay Ka, MM and thank you again!

    Apr 8, 2014 | 11:08 am

     
  6. Michelle says:

    I just came from a retreat where environmental care is emphasized. I’ve been exposed to the development world peripherally, but it was still a revelation to hear that “Caring for the environment is caring for the poor.” This shows how simple that connection is. Thanks for sharing MM! :)

    Apr 8, 2014 | 11:48 am

     
  7. Maricel says:

    Interesting! First time I heard of them

    Apr 8, 2014 | 12:34 pm

     
  8. Eva Mondragon says:

    Thanks for posting, MM. Before this, I never even heard of sand worms.

    Apr 8, 2014 | 2:41 pm

     
  9. britelite says:

    I was able to observe that in Boracay..

    Apr 8, 2014 | 4:13 pm

     
  10. Footloose says:

    Sandworm appetizer sounds like a contradiction in terms but ceviche of foreskin would not cut it for me either, too mohel-ish. I just imagine the texture would be sinewy, like geoduck trunk.

    Apr 8, 2014 | 8:56 pm

     
  11. Marketman says:

    Footloose, welcome back, your comments always amuse or educate… Thanks to all for your concern re: the blog… Happy to be back up again.

    Apr 8, 2014 | 9:32 pm

     
  12. rp says:

    for a moment i thought i had stumbled onto another of Andrew Zimmern’s bizarre food episode; someone can have my portion ;-)

    Apr 8, 2014 | 11:40 pm

     
  13. germac says:

    germac say:

    i heard that dried sand worms can be added in making Vietnamese PHO soup

    Apr 9, 2014 | 12:42 am

     
  14. Connie C says:

    Another educational post.

    I do not have Footloose’s encyclopedic mind and fertile imagination as my mohel-lish days in the nursery while in pediatric training ( and I did quite a number of what was then a routine procedure) did not even come to mind, but I recall having to psyche myself that the tamilok ( similar in form to the ambilang though not in texture perhaps) is a mollusk and not a worm before I even tried it.

    Apr 9, 2014 | 5:32 am

     
  15. Footloose says:

    Oh how I envy your derring-do with exotic foodstuff ConnieC. Perhaps, in a life and death situation such as if I ever get threatened with being nudged off the edge of a precipice, I might be persuaded to partake of a plate of sand prepuce.

    Apr 9, 2014 | 7:09 am

     
  16. Marketman says:

    Footloose and Connie C, wait till you see the post on roughly 400 gonads in a bottle for sale on the same beach, just PHP50 or $1.10. :)

    Apr 9, 2014 | 7:35 am

     
  17. Eva Mondragon says:

    MM – Gonads???

    Apr 9, 2014 | 3:45 pm

     
  18. Susan says:

    And I thought I’ve heard of every food imaginable!

    Apr 9, 2014 | 8:08 pm

     
  19. gadgets says:

    these look very much like the razor clams sold here in the UK

    Apr 9, 2014 | 8:10 pm

     
  20. Ken_L says:

    More appetising than the Australian beach worm http://lunar.thegamez.net/fishingtips/fishing-with-worms-tips/beginners-guide-to-cod-fishing-from-the-shore-and-beach-580×412.jpg

    All the sea creatures harvested by foraging are getting very scarce in Australia, to the extent the government has imposed strict limits on the numbers anyone can have in their possession. Not too many years ago you could get a bucket of pipis (beach clams) in an hour at low tide – now the popular beaches have none. Those sand worms must be fast growers!

    Apr 9, 2014 | 8:21 pm

     
  21. len says:

    I used to see locals in Boracay harvesting sandworms a few years back. Last Christmas when we stayed in Cayucyucan beach in Camarines Norte, sand worms are abundant but it was so hard to catch one. My kids tried to catch one because we were amazed on how they form patterns on the sands during low tide. I think the locals in Bicol are not using it for food.

    Apr 9, 2014 | 8:50 pm

     
  22. Getter Dragon 1 says:

    I’m always amused too that there is so little written about Filipino food ways. Especially by western or Filipino-American writers. There’s always extremes of gross-out or indifference which is an injustice in such stories. Also the references of the world influencing Filipino cuisine. It just borders the cliche. Its like every time there has to be either an excuse or apology. Filipino food and food ways are just as interesting (and if not better) than other foods and dishes from around the world. I think we just need to stop with the prefacing with the Spanish or whatever influence and showcase Filipino food on its own. Through the years I have been happy with MMs musing as its probably the only blog that bridges this gap and is one of the best maintained sites that I have read.

    Apr 12, 2014 | 11:55 pm

     
  23. Footloose says:

    @GetterDragon1 What you raise is a valid point and a situation that mercifully has been gradually getting better of late. Food writers and editors who have genuine interest and deep familiarity with local food ways or have established contact with local knowledgeable cooks and bloggers are introducing previously unknown food to a mainstream public. With visiting travel writers though who depend mainly on local guides who are not by themselves necessarily interested in food, all they are going to get is a taunting to eat balut and that’s hardly the foreign visitor’s fault.

    Apr 13, 2014 | 8:05 am

     

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