Sago Worms

Bowls of sago worms at the market in Saratok


Most people have heard of them and probably seen them in some TV survival program. The Image of Bear Grylls biting into one, making a sour face and stating that the local Indians (South America) can keep their delicacy springs to my mind when I see them. Truth be told however his mistake was not cooking them, many Dayaks in Sarawak would have an equally sour face if someone told them to eat the things raw.

Sago worms are the larva of a big tropical beatle which most comonly feeds on ago palms, however it can feed on many other palm trees provided they have enough starch in the trunk. Notably it sometimes becomes a pest in Oil Palm plantations or even date palm plantations as far north as the northern coast of africa.

Sago worms are not disgusting, their taste is actually surprisingly ok. Not great maybe but certainly ok. There are many ways of cooking them and depending on how you cook them the taste will vary. Most locals prefer to stir fry them in some oil and soy sauce. For me this is not a good solution, they are quite fatty and cooked this way you end up with a thin rubbery bag of oil in oil.

A much better solution is to cook them over a fire, usually on skewers, assuming you do not burn them you will end up with some golden roasted worms which taste like…well NOT like chicken. They are about 60% prawn and 40% potato fry or maybe peanut, this is because their diet is almost 100% sago palm starch. Most people like the taste in this form, though many have problems with the idea of eating a worm. To make it a bit easier on yourself skip the head, it is crunchy and there is no way around the fact that the crunch is insect brains etc. Another way to cook them is to cook them in bamboo over a fire.

More recently I have also met with the idea to eat them raw but with soy sauce and wasabi, but since I havent tried it yet I can not comment. it is not a local way of preparing it and I have not seen it done yet. But hey raw prawns with wasabi and soy sauce are great I guess sago worms should be too right?


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