Kinilaw na Ambilang. Ceviche of foreskin. Bad sounding translation for an appetizer, I know. Maybe better to say Ceviche of Sandworms. :)
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.
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…
…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.
Here a close-up of a hand already hanging on to a sand worm in the depths…
…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.
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.
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.