There are many date palms which grow naturally in Ca Mau province. These palms are home to greasy and tasty date palm worms – a specialty food of the province. One interesting fact about date palm worm is that there is only one worm on one palm. Not all of the palms have worms so that this kind of food is very rare. Not similar to coconut worm – a specialty of Ben Tre province, it could not be raised.
In breeding season of beetles such as rhinoceros beetles from October to February in the lunar calendar, the beetles find a hole in date palm heart and lay eggs which grow into worms. Eating the young date palm, these worms are white, fat, as big as a little finger. Especially, date palm worm has no hair and not black guts like other kinds of worms. Mature worms can be as big as a big toe.
To catch date palm worm, it needs experience and patience. Local people must go deeply into mangrove forests fo find wild date palms with worms. After discovering the worm in the palm, they use a sharp knife to cut the young part of the date palm and bring home. The worm only is got out of the palm when cooking to make sure the worm is alive.
The milky, tender and a little chewy date palm worm can be eaten raw. One of the most popular dishes from this worm is Bathing date palm worm. They put the worms into fish sauce and chili pepper, then eat one by one with chopsticks. The fish sauce helps to remove the worm odor and make it easier to eat this worm. Grilled date palm worm in Ca Mau was one of the best dishes to offer to royal families in the past. The worm is grilled on charcoal, wrapped in veggies, dipped in tamarind fish sauce dip. Porridge with date palm worm or Fried date palm worm in wheat flour with butter are delicious dishes which anyone coming to Ca Mau should not miss.