Not something that you will find in a normal restaurant in Borneo but the sago worm is a delicacy eaten by some indgenous groups in Borneo. It is especially famous among the Kadazandusun in Sabah, and the Melanau in Sarawak. However, it is not exclusive to Borneo, as it is also eaten by the people of New Guinea and Ecuador.
The sago worm, or sago grub, is the larvae of the Sago Palm Weevil. The sago palm tree is chopped down and the trunk is left to rot. After a few weeks, stripping off the bark and breaking open the trunk reveals dozens of palm weevils and their larvae. The larvae feeds on the starch of the sago palm. The adults are reddish-brown in colour with a snout and are smaller than the larvae.
The larvae are then collected to be eaten. You can either eat it raw or cook it first. I tried both. First, we washed the larvae to clean it from the sago palm. The rotting palm stinks a bit, but the larvae itself has no smell. As you can see from the pictures, the larvae is creamy white and looks like a fat worm. It has a small, brown head that is hard and cannot be eaten. So, hold the larvae’s fat body, and then twist off the head. Throw away the inner parts of the larvae by flinging it away. It can be eaten, but it doesn’t taste nice. The larvae can then be eaten. It has been described as tasting like chicken or beef, but to me, there was no taste. It just felt kind of chewy, like eating mussels.
If eating raw larvae is too much for you, you can taste the ones that have been fried. Just heat the wok and put the larvae in and add in some salt. You don’t need oil, as the sago worm has plenty of oil in its body. In fact, as the wok gets hotter, the worms sometimes explode from the oil that bubbles out of their body. Even after frying it, it still doesn’t taste like meat. Someone described it as tasting like mushy corn. To make it even more delicious, you can add onion and other stuff.
Well, at least it’s good for you. The sago worm is said to contain more iron and vitamin B than beef or chicken, and it was a good source of protein for the local people who eat sago starch as their main food since the starch is almost all carbohydrate only.