Palolo, a Samoan (worm) delicacy [video]

by | Samoan Food Stories, Umukuka | 6 comments

Some cultures eat frog legs and snails. Others eat crickets and roaches. Samoans eat worms from the ocean.

And they’re yum!

When I was very young in Hawaii, the stories about palolo were like fairy-tales to me:

  • They only come out once a year, under a waning moon
  • The villagers wade out into the night ocean to catch them
  • They shimmer on the surface of the water
  • They’re so delicious, they’re like ambrosia for the Samoan gods

Something like that.

I also remember, one day my family was visiting a friend’s beach house (on the North Shore of Oahu, everybody’s shack is a beach house). The mother of the family had just arrived from a holiday in Samoa and was so excited about a small container of palolo she’d brought back.

I’m sure I tasted it then and loved it, but palolo is so hard to find, it would be a lot of years – decades – before I’d have the chance to try it again and be sure.

Until then, palolo was just a mythical creature whose stories were woven into the image in my mind of Samoan culture.

Then along came Google and Wikipedia to dispel the mystery of it all.

Turns out, palolo is just the reproductive end of a long sea worm called the Palola viridis, of the Polycheata class. (Aaauuuuu.)

One or two nights during mating season (that’s spring in Samoa, October-November), these worms just divide themselves in half and let their business ends float to the top of the water, where they mingle with and fertilize other business ends and, you know, make babies.

That’s if they don’t get scooped up first by those silly Samoans having a party on the water with their nets and their ula moso’oi and their singing and excitement over this rare and magical seafood.

Okay I’m jealous. Palolo-catching ranks very high on this geek’s Bucket List. Someday… hopefully soon.

Luckily, though, I don’t have to wait anymore to try palolo again. My aunt in Samoa – bless her heart – decided, just out of the blue, to send some palolo to us here in New Zealand.

It got to us frozen, so of course we didn’t enjoy the wonderful experience of pulling the wriggly worms straight out of the ocean and popping them into our mouths, but it was still sooooo yum.

I fried the palolo with onions, scrambled in some eggs and ate it with crackers.

(More photos at Manaui:Savour Oceania)

As you can probably tell, my most favourite kind of food in the world comes from the ocean, so it really makes no sense to me how anyone could not like seafood… but palolo tastes and smells so much like the sea that, I guess if you don’t like fish, you probably won’t like palolo.

It actually tastes a lot like fish eggs (which I love, too!). So think, caviar or roe… Or the thick egg-sacks you sometimes find in the belly of a snapper if you’re lucky.

And ehhh.. now I’m hungry.

And I have to wait a whole 11 months before the next palolo season.


  1. piotagiilima

    When you live in New Zealand as I do, what we usually do with palolo when we get some from Samoa (during palolo season). We get the raw palolo (usually frozen), Step 1, put some butter on frying pan and heat it up until melt. Step 2. Put palolo in pan and fry it for 1 1/2 minute. Step 3. Put fried palolo on toasted bread and eat it straight away. You can put butter on toast if you want. You can even eat it with baked potatoes or just bread.

    • hamogeekgirl

      Talofa Piotagiilima. That’s definitely my plan if I ever get some of this stuff again. Just fry it up in butter (no eggs) ma ‘ai loa! Thank you for the instructions 🙂

  2. chuck williams

    Hello Hamogeekgirl,
    I hope you will excuse me for writing about dreams in your article about sea worms (which do sound worth trying) but being an elder still finding my way around the internet, I can’t relocate the one about Samoan Dream Interpretation which I read several months ago.
    At the end of that blog,your conclusion struck a note with me: “What seems important are the feelings you have in the dream. They have more meaning to the person dreaming.” I could not agree more.
    In the late 60″s I knew a Polynesian woman and her son (no specific Island known), who told me how her people responded to a young persons “scary” nightmares. While listening to the story, the adult would encourage the teller to include their feelings and emotions they had during the dream. Then they would ask the dreamer where in their everyday life they had those same feelings and emotions. They would follow up by talking about ways to deal with that everyday situation.
    What a simple, straightforward and elegant method of dream interpretation! Plus it works! Not only does it help solve everyday problems but it seems to put one in contact with their sub-conscious and their creative side. It is truly a welcome alternative to Western methods involving symbolic meanings, sexual hangups and archetypal patterns that vary between cultures.
    I wonder if you know of any further evidence this method of dream interpretation was common in any Polynesian culture before European arrival ? Or where it may still exist ?
    Great Website, Thank You, Chuck Williams , chukwil at Yahoo

    • hamogeekgirl

      Hello Chuck. Apologies for the late reply. I do believe you’re referring to this article: Interpret your dreams a Samoan way.

      Wow. I love your story! The way that Polynesian lady (and son) helped people find the meanings of their dreams makes so much sense to me, but I don’t know why. I just know from experience that it works.

      Chuck, I don’t know of any studies on Polynesian dream interpretations, I’m sorry. But I would be fascinated to read any if you ever find something! Please let me know if you do…

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  3. kyf

    Hello Hamogeekgirl,
    I’m desperately trying to find some frozen palolo worms. Do you or maybe your aunt know of anyone that has any left? Please any help would be much appreciated! Feel free to email me 🙂

    • hamogeekgirl

      Lol awww I’m so sorry. I wouldn’t have a clue who has any frozen palolo. Those things don’t last very long, even when they’re in the freezer (cause they’re so yum!) But if you do find some, let us know where, k? 🙂



  1. How to eat Palolo (when you live in New Zealand) – Manaui - […] can learn all about palolo worms and their mating season – which results in the palolo we eat –…

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