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Hawkers Really Put Worms in Laksa · Everything You Heard is True · Almost

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There's an urban legend in Singapore that hawkers used to put earthworms in laksa 😱 


Today, while tasting Dolphins Steakhouse's laksa, Dorothy the owner shared that they used to put dried sea worms in their laksa. This is the first time I heard first hand about using worms in laksa from a laksa seller.


Dorothy founded Dolphins Steakhouse in the 1980s at Tai Thong Crescent before moving to their current location at Everich Industrial Building. 
Dolphins is an old school Hainanese Western restaurant.

Laksa is not in Dolphins restaurant menu anymore but they still supply laksa in their catering service. They don't use dried sea worms anymore.

There're a lot of versions of the laksa worm legend or rumour. Some say it's earthworms, other say maggots 😱 Some say it is to help preserve the coconut milk based spicy soup (slow it from turning bad or curdling), while others think it serves as a kind of opium or ganja to hook customers.

How true are these rumours? 🤷‍♂️

Dorothy said when they used sun dried sea worms from Xiamen (Fujian) in the past, the purpose was to increase the soup's umami savouriness. (Sea worms are also known as sand worms, peanut worms and scientifically as sipunculus nudus.)

Ah yes, this makes sense.

Some Vietnamese pho recipes also use the same dried sea worms for the same umami savoury boost.

I forgot to ask Dorothy why hawkers stopped using dried sea worms but I guess cheaper, more easily available alternative umami sources like dried shrimp or simply more salt and MSG might have something to do with it 🤭


Don't worry about dried or even fresh sea worms. I tried them in Xiamen, China where it is a delicacy known as 土笋 or "ground bamboo shoot", and they were delicious. 

The sand worms are proudly touted as "Xiamen's Number One Local Snack" 廈門第一風味小吃.


Big fat sand worms 星蟲 encased in translucent jello.

The fresh worm skin is a little chewy, crunchy like chicken intestine and has no flavour on its own.

I wish Singapore hawkers would use dried sea worms in laksa again 😄

I don't know about earthworms and maggots and what are the reasons for using these. Perhaps, they are just over imaginative embellishments, distortions or misunderstandings of the dried sea worm in laksa recipe. 

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Written by Tony Boey on 2 Feb 2024


  1. I ate this in xiamen before.. an acquired taste but I can see how it may raise the umami in the broth

  2. We tried stir fried sand worms in Sanya, Hainan island

  3. I heard of this when I was in my teens.

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  5. My late grandmother who hails from indonesia love eating these worms. She would get it from Indonesia and it comes dried like dried cuttlefish. She would panggang it over charcoal and the aroma of the worm would fill the house. Crispy and have a very umami taste. Fell in love with it the first time I had it but alas a few hours later my face swell up and I had difficulty breathing.. Was rushed to the doctor. I was allergic to it.. But i still can't forget the taste of it till now.. 30 over years..

  6. The Chang Family ate this in Xiamen before we proceeded to Xinmen 家鄉😅

  7. Still can get from Chinese medicine shops, but now can’t afford to put in liao, coz price not cheap

  8. Eddie Edeleden Chan2 February 2024 at 22:33

    Yesh… I can attest that…
    Cos I used to hang around Kek Sng kio those days wif atlas ice factory still in business wif hawkers carrying their goods on bamboo sticks

  9. I heard about this since young. Chinese med shops sell this

  10. Prevents coagulation

  11. Knew about this when I was a teen in the early 70s, but we still whack lah.

  12. this is also very popular in Guangzhou. I went to 湛江 (zhamgong in canto) last sept and they have this delicacy

  13. It's earthworm not any worms. Used to catch these worms at the beach sand. Used plain biscuits and soak with water, then squeeze the water onto the sand. The worm will make its way up and we catch the head and slowly pull the worm out. The worm also can be used as bait on fishing hook to catch fish

  14. Tony Boey I used to catch it east coast beach in the late 60s n early 70s. The laksa seller will use a small cloth bag that we used to squeezed coconut milk and tied the bag. Then they soak in the pot. Heard the laksa gravy can last a day without going bad

  15. Worms are just like shrimp or anchovy.

  16. Johnny Tan the Grouper Chef says he used to use these too.
    1. Seaworms add sweetness
    2. Land Earthworms add robustness and good taste


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