Sago Worm | Borneo’s Most Popular Exotic Food

Sago worm
First image Image Copyright © Tapani Tarvainen ( 1997,1998.

Sarawak is indeed a state that is rich in food diversity! Honestly, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration if this land of Bumi Kenyalang is considered a paradise for exotic food lovers. One of the most famous exotic delicacies is the Sago Worm. (It is called Si’et in the Melanau language, Tinduh in the Iban language and Butod in Sabah)

So, this week, we’re gonna explore and know more about the famous Sago worm! Let’s dive right into it. 

About Sago Worms 

Image Copyright © Tapani Tarvainen ( 1997,1998.

Sago worms are usually found in Sago palm. These squirmy little creatures feed on the starchy pith of decaying sago palm trees. And oh, these worms will turn into beetles like in 2 months. The Melanau community has been collecting these high in protein, high-fat grub for centuries! 


Where can you get them? 

These Sago worms can be found at Mukah and Betong. Other than that, they can also be found in other areas in Sarawak and Brunei. Where there are Rumbia trees, there will be Sago worms! 

The craze for this exotic food makes Sago worms have a very high commercial value as well as a source of lucrative income for the owner and seller. Even though there is no scientific research on this, people say that these squiggly creatures have a lot of health benefits. That includes the benefits of its oil that can help to thicken your hair! 

How to Enjoy Sago Worms

Image credit to mariusz_prusaczyk

Sago Worm can be eaten while it’s still alive. They’re definitely squiggly, so if you don’t mind eating it alive, it is juicy and warm. I never dared to eat these little things alive. Also, I’m one of those who DO NOT enjoy the head part. I will always get rid of that and enjoy the rest. Other than that, they can also be enjoyed stir fried, smoked or grilled. The best way to prepare this is grilled! It’s crispy on the outside yet still so juicy as you bite into it. 

How much are Sago worms?

Sago worms are sold depending on their size and maturity. One mature Sago worm that is big in size or Gred A is sold at 40 sen or even up to 50 sen for one! Quite expensive I’d say. *wipes tears* How do they determine which one is the better quality? The bigger ones in size and collected from the base of the tree up to the middle are usually sold more expensive than the ones on the trunk. Those that are on the trunk are usually still small and immature. Pretty interesting, if you ask me! 

My Aunty’s Recipe!

I didn’t get the chance to experience the collecting of the Sago worm but I’m going to share with you guys, how Melanau Dalat prepares this delicacy. There’s not much that goes into it. You will only need ginger, garlic and salt! That’s pretty much it. Oil? There’s no need for that. The Sago worm has its own oil that will pretty much ooze out after being cooked for a while. 

First, you gotta wash the Sago worm. Ours were frozen that time, so we had to let it defrost first then wash it. 

Image taken by Borneo Foodie

Next, prepare your ginger and garlic! You can also add in lemongrass if you want. We didn’t have any at that time, but it was still good.

Image taken by Borneo Foodie

Once you get your ingredients ready, throw them bad boys in a pot or a pan. I suggest using one that is a non-stick kind. You’ll be frying these Sago worms without oil. 

Image taken by Borneo Foodie

If you don’t like it, still so fluffy and big like that, you can cut them mid frying them. Some people like it fluffy, so when you bite into it, the juice will ooze out, making it all the more enjoyable to eat. This is just how our family prepares it. 

Image taken by Borneo Foodie

Just look at the juice, the oil in the middle! That’s all from the Sago worm. 

Image taken by Borneo Foodie

Finally, the Sago worm is ready to be served and eaten! 

Image taken by Borneo Foodie


Well, that is all for this entry! Have you guys ever tried Sago worms before? If yes, do you like it? On a side note, if you’ve never had these before, I recommend trying only a bite first, because some people are known to be allergic to these worms! Till then, Borneo Foodies. 

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