We first heard of Udu from an anthropologist we met while walking through the village with Mathew. Little did we know, but our stopover in Loltong Bay coincided with the yearly rising of the Pacific coral sea worm, or udu as they’re called in Vanuatu.
We’re not clear on the exact phenomena that bring the worms out of hiding, but it has to do with a waning moon shining on a night of two high tides at the start rainy season. According to BBC’s documentary series South Pacific (I highly recommend—we just started it and its like Benedict Cumberbatch narrating an amazing documentary of our adventures), the udu send the reproductive end of their bodies to the surface of the water to spawn.
That evening, during happy hour on Helios, we began to smell an increased fishiness in the air. After dark, Dominic turned on the spreader lights and took the above photo of worm parts between two and fifty centimeters in length writhing at the surface, coiling and unfurling themselves like the DNA bits they were swapping.
The udu harvest is a big deal in the village. The villagers spread out around the bay and use bonfires, flaming palm fronds, and flashlights to attract the worms and then catch them in nets. Mathew described udu as the food of chiefs. In Loltong at least, the udu are all given to the chief who dines heartily himself, shares the meal with his favorites, and then saves the rest for later or trades them as valuable commodities between villages.
So we were…honored…to find udu mixed with bell peppers and swaddled in eggs on our plate in the cafe. We’re not ones to turn down a little sea worm these days, so udu we did.
They were savory, the consistency of a slightly chewy shellfish. Dominic thought it seemed like a regular omelette, and wishes he could have tried them raw. I imagine they don't taste so different from the escargot or frog’s legs Mathew might have enjoyed while dining in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.