In drinking sessions after a sugarcane harvest, the best snack to be served can be found in the hollowed out roots of burnt sugarcanes.
This time of year is when the sugarcane fields in Ngoc Lac District, central Thanh Hoa Province, three hours south of Hanoi, have been fully harvested and the remnant stumps are burned to prepare for a new crop.
This creates conditions for sugarcane worms to colonize, and locals catch them to make a tasty snack, particularly favored during sessions. The worm is considered the area’s specialty dish.
Sugarcane worms are usually served fried. It has a strong and sweet flavor, and drinkers like the texture that its tough outer skin has.
Sugarcane, after being cut, has an inert yellow and hollow root, indicating it has been invaded by sugarcane borer.
“We refer to them as larvae of beetles. After harvesting sugarcane, people burn stumps to plant new crops, and wait for the rain to dampen the land. After this it’s easy to catch the worms,” said Truong Van Hai, a resident of Thanh Hoa.
Each sugarcane root hosts one to two borers. They can be as big as a human thumb, some are even up to 10 cm long.
Cao Manh Tuan, another Thanh Hoa resident, said that in the past, local people only dug sugarcane borers to cook and eat them while drinking with friends, but lately they have become a commodity that many restaurants buy.
“This species lives in moist soil. They often eat sugarcane, corn, and coconut,” Tuan said.
Farmers can easily catch them after lifting the roots off the ground.
Every day, a resident of Ngoc Lac Commune can get four to five kilograms of sugarcane worms. Each kilo sells for VND80,000 ($3.5).
At the restaurants, these are washed and have their intestines removed before they are cooked.