Archive for the ‘china’ Category

Sand Worm Soup

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

I’ve already been a bit tardy at adding new posts to the blog. It’s been a crazy week. And some nights I come back from work, and I crave for a warm, comforting bowl of soup.

One of our meals in Guangzhou was at a place that served Panyu cuisine. Actually, I never really found out what characterizes Panyu cuisine, other than they sterilize your utensils in a wok right at the table:

Sterilizing Tableware in Guangzhou

The restaurants that don’t do this, serve table settings shrinkwrapped in plastic. As we all know, nothing says “hygiene” more than shrink wrap.

At the place in my previous post, they had these sand worms. And I thought they looked, well, interesting. (If there are any marine biologists reading, please help me identify these critters in the comments section.)

Sand Worms

Curiousity got the better of me, and I was sure these things aren’t endangered by a long shot, so I ordered up a bunch. Our waitress called over a girl to clean them, a task which the girl did quite deftly.

She’d pick up a worm, and hold it underwater in a basin. Then, using a long, thin stick (the Malay word ‘lidi’ describes this best), she’d shove it through one end of the worm, and the entire contents of the worm would exit the other end in a little black cloud.

I’m taking a wild guess here, but I think these worms swallow large amounts of sand, and filter out anything nutritious, because the primary component of sand worm innards is, surprise, surprise: sand.

Cleaning Sand worms

We then asked what the best way to prepare them was. “In soup, with white radish,” the waitress replied with great conviction. So, all righty then, Sand Worm Soup it is!

Sand Worm Soup

As you can see, the body of the sand worm is essentially a long, ribbed prophylactic (visible by clicking for larger photo).

And now, the million-dollar question. “What does sand worm soup taste like?”

Uncannily like white radish soup. As with bird’s nests, sea cucumber, frog’s glands and the countless other things that Chinese folk enjoy eating, the worms themselves were disappointingly bland as well, and slightly crunchy to the bite—somewhat akin to the texture of bamboo pith. Why can’t any of these things taste like foie gras or truffles, or wagyu beef?!

The waitress came over to inquire how the soup was, and we told her it was sorely lacking any flavour. “It is?” she said, genuinely surprised. It was then that she confessed to never having eaten the damn things before. Lovely. We instructed her never to recommend that dish to anyone ever again.

She must’ve felt bad about it, because she later brought over a plate of watermelon slices on the house. Not to sound ungrateful, but I think they were Panyu sand melons, the red parts tasted exactly the same as the rind.

Postscript:

I’ve found out that these worms are Sipuncula, Sipunculoidea, Sipunculida, or sipunculid worms. Commonly known as peanut worms, or in China and Vietnam, as “Bibi” worms. They are also found in Singapore waters and there’s a lovely picture of them here.

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