In Bali, The Early Worm Gets Eaten

Bali X Files

The jungle forests on the foothills of Bali’s Mount Batukaru in Tabanan Regency are home to many stands of wild bamboo, which are ideal habitats for bamboo larvae worms or borers, locally known as uled kelong (Omphisa fuscidentalis).

The larvae are carefully gathered and enjoyed as a culinary delight by Tabanan Residents, who cook them in a specific Balinese sauce—base genep.

These bamboo worms are white and have a body length of 3.5 to 4 centimeters. They will eventually transform into moths with orange-brown wings bearing black, curved stripes if left to mature.

The worms feed on the inner pulp of the bamboo plant. If not devoured by birds, the larvae eventually migrate to a hollow cavity of the bamboo plant, where they mature. 

The larvae are edible and prized for their flavor. They are harvested in such a way as to avoid sacrificing the bamboo plant. The worms are an excellent source of nutrition, comprised of 26% protein and 51% fat. They can be deep-fried or cooked in a spicy Bali-based genep sauce. quoted I Made Danu Tirta, from the village of Sangketan in the Penebel District of Tabanan Regency, who freely admitted that many people lack the “culinary courage” to consume caterpillar larvae. But for many living in the region, uled kelong is a popular fare at local feasts.

The cooking style used for preparing uled kelong is as equally unique as its main ingredient. After harvesting the worms, they are placed unwashed in a piece of bamboo and heated on a fire. Once cooked, the larvae are removed from the bamboo to be drained and washed. 

Base Genep, a traditional Balinese base sauce made from turmeric, galangal, and ginger, is then added to the cooked larvae and fried until it reaches a semi-dry, crispy consistency. 

Aficionados of Uled Kelon insist this local delicacy is delicious, saying the dish is not unlike “nyawan,” a dish made from bee larvae that forms a condiment for another popular local dish—Lawar Nyawan.

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