Delicacies from Around the World January 2012

I just returned from an early December trip over to Southeast Asia and Southern China. A hidden bonus of all this travel to the backwaters of Asia is a chance to indulge in the dietary challenges that sometimes come up.

As we were trudging down the main street of Rangoon’s Chinatown my Chinese associate said, “Hey Richard…let’s try this!” I looked down at two plates on a small table. On each plate were 15-20 segmented white worms. Each worm was just about the size of an adult thumb…quite large! On one plate they were still wiggling around and on the other plate…well those had been toasted to an appetizing golden brown.

So we sat down on small stools right there on the sidewalk and placed our order. The first bite was quite a surprise as the shell of the worm burst and the true yogurt-like consistency of the worm burst forth. I asked what kind of worm it was—just making small talk, I guess, because at that point it didn’t really matter!

Translated literally from Chinese it was a TREE WORM which resides in the bark of certain trees. Further research on the internet revealed that they are normally referred to as “grubs” in polite western society. Only one worm lives in a single tree and it is quite difficult to find the little buggers—so they are quite expensive.

The sight of a tall, pale foreigner squatting by the side of the street popping grubs into his mouth struck the locals as being a bit unusual and soon we had a few folks standing around. An elderly lady stepped forward and gave me a recipe to try when I returned home:

1 ea Coconut
1 ea Tree worm (Grub)
2 cups Washed long-grain rice

Cut a hole in the coconut and put the tree worm inside the coconut. After 11⁄2 days the tree worm will eat all of the white meat inside the coconut causing him (or her) to expand to nearly 8 times its normal size.

Place two cups of rice in your rice cooker and cover with water. Open the coconut, extract the grub (which is now 8 times its normal size) and toss it into the rice cooker. Cook rice normally. The result will be the creamiest, most delicious coconut rice that you have ever eaten.

At least that’s what she told me. I must confess that I haven’t tried the recipe yet. I’m having a problem finding a cooperative tree worm here in San Francisco!

Happy New Year!

Richard Keldsen
San Francisco
January 2012