Ahh, it’s finally spring here in my neck of the woods. It’s that magical time of year when the dull winter colors fade away and are replaced by the vibrant explosions of new growth and greenery. It’s a time of birth and renewal and that means it’s also one of my favorite times of year…
Mongolian Death Worm culling season!
Now for those of you who aren’t familiar with the Mongolian Death Worm, it resides year-round deep in the heart of the Gobi desert. Fully grown mature adults are anywhere from 5-15 feet long, are a dark rusty red, and spend their entire lives underground.
Mongolian Death Worms are predatory creatures, killing their prey either by spraying them with venom or by electrocuting them much like an electric eel.
Normally Mongolian Death Worms spend the majority of their time in hibernation, but come spring, these vile pulsating bags of disgustingly delicious meat come to the surface to breed and lay eggs.
While they are technically considered a protected species, they are far from endangered and it is entirely possible to obtain an annual “cull permit” which allows individuals to collect one single juvenile species under 1 foot in length every spring. This helps to keep the population in check.
This year I was lucky enough to get my claws into a permit and as a result, was able to treat my family to a delicious roasted Mongolian Death Worm dinner…and let me tell you, if you’ve never had fresh brown sugar and Dijon glazed Mongolian Death Worm, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Of course, the culling permit lottery is already over, so for those of you mortals who wish to partake in this feast, some substitutions will have to be made. While not a perfect replacement, pork loin is close enough to Mongolian Death Worm to be acceptable for this recipe.
To make your own Mongolian Death Worm you will need:
- 1 pork loin (1 ½ -2lb in size size)
- 1 ½ cups brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
- ¼ Cup Coke (do NOT use Diet)
- 1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
- 2 packages prosciutto ham
- Whole cloves (about 40 or so)
- Red food coloring
- 2-3 pieces of dry spaghetti
- Apple sauce
- Green food coloring
Start by pre-heating your oven to 400F/204C.
The first thing we’re going to do is make our glaze. In a pot over medium heat, combine the brown sugar with your Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar and your Coke. And yes, you read that right…Coke. Do NOT use diet. You need the sugar that’s found in regular Coke.
Stir constantly until all your brown sugar is completely melted and your Dijon mustard is fully incorporated.
Bring to just below a simmer and allow to cook for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. As it cooks, the glaze will thicken up. You want it to be the consistency of good thick maple syrup or honey. Don’t let it cook too long or all the liquid will evaporate off and you’ll end up with a nasty burned mess.
While that’s cooking down, let’s prep your pork loin.
For this recipe, I snagged a packaged pork loin that was pre-marinated with applewood smoked bacon, which is why it’s got a slight orange tint to it. You can do the same thing or grab a plain unmarinated version, it’s your choice.
Now the first thing we have to do is make this thing look like a Death Worm and that means giving it a mouth and a tail. If this were a true Mongolian Death Worm, you’d have to pry the jaws open and remove the venom sacs located at the back of the jaw (venom sacs make the most amazing finishing sauce!). As this is just a pork loin, all you have to do is use a sharp knife to cut a round plug out of one end of your loin. I made mine about 2” deep and extended it almost all the way to the edge of the loin.
To achieve the tapered look of the tail, you’re going to want to cut your loin into a wedge by removing triangular shapes from each side of the loin at about the half way point. You’ll then flip those triangle shapes upside down and lay them alongside the rest of the loin to create the pointed tail portion.
Here’s a horrible illustration I hope you can understand:
And here is a horribly blurry photo that I’m so sorry to say is the ONLY photo I got of this process.
Death Worms are…well, worms…and worms have segmented rings that run up and down their bodies. Pork loins are fairly smooth. To create the illusion of segmented rings, we’re going to wrap our loin in strips of prosciutto (this can also be done with bacon, but I really really love prosciutto.)
On a foil lined tray, lay out one package of your prosciutto so that each piece just barely overlaps the piece below it.
Place your pork loin in the center of this and position your tail pieces on either side. Depending on your pork loin, you may have a strip of fatty tissue running the length of your loin. If you do, make sure this side is “up.”
Wrap your prosciutto strips around your pork loin from the back to the front. They should stick fairly well just from the moisture in the meat.
Once you get the backside wrapped, it’s time to wrap the front side.
Open your second package of prosciutto and lay it down over the top of your pork loin, again just barely overlapping each piece. Tuck the excess ends down and underneath your worm body.
There are three primary different species of Death Worms, each with their own unique characteristics including spikes and prehensile jaw extensions. Regardless of the species, all Death Worms have two lines of dark spots running down the length of their bodies, one on each side. These are nephridiopores and extrude a fluid that moistens and protects the worm’s skin, helping it to breathe. They also have two sets of “eyes” on the top of their heads. While non-functioning as far as sight goes, they are photo-sensitive, allowing the worm to differentiate between light and dark.
To create the “eyes” and the nephridiopores, I used whole cloves. Use either the tip of your knife or a toothpick to punch small, evenly spaced holes along the length of your Death Worm on both sides of his body and insert a single clove into each spot for his nephridiopores.
Repeat the process at the top of his head to make the two “eyes.”
To create the gaped mouth look and to make putting the teeth in easier, roll up a ball of tin foil and stuff that into your worm’s mouth to help keep it open while it cooks.
By now your oven should be pre-heated and your glaze should be nice and thick. Grab a food safe brush and slather on a generous layer of glaze, covering your worm from head to tail.
If you’re planning on roasting veggies while you roast your worm, pile them on around your worm now. I used diced Granny Smith apples and sweet potato threads.
Pop your worm into the oven and cook for approximately 20-30 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 145F/62C. Every 10 minutes, pull your worm out and apply a thick generous coating of your glaze. You can also drizzle this onto your veggies.
While it’s roasting, carefully break your spaghetti noodles into ½” long pieces. You’ll need about 30-40 pieces.
Just before you pull out your worm for the last round of glazing, add in a few drops of red food coloring to your glaze mixture. This will give your worm the traditional brick red color. Now is the time you also want to add in your teeth. Remove your worm from the oven. Working quickly, pull out the tin foil you used to keep his mouth open. The pork should be cooked enough now to hold its shape.
Poke your spaghetti noodles into the mouth of your worm, giving it an appropriately toothy and snaggly grin.
Give your worm one more coating of (now red) glaze and return him to the oven for one last 10-minute bake. Don’t worry if you get any glaze on his teeth. It will just add to the effect later.
To recreate the green venom the Mongolian Death Worm uses to kill its’ prey, simply mix a few drops of green food coloring in with your applesauce and set aside for now.
Once your worm is thoroughly cooked, remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
To give him an accurate, venomous look, drip a little of your green applesauce into his mouth and around the edge of his head on the tray.
Slice him up, making sure to give the head to the guest of honor and enjoy!