Seashells and Crustaceans

Being the beachcomber that I am, I would like to share with you the various kinds of exotic SEASHELLS and edible CRUSTACEANS found in the seas of my native hometown of Sorsogon, Philippines.


The beach has always been an alluring and favorite destination for local vacationists and beach bums, but I noticed not all of them are that interested in collecting those cute sea shells of all shapes and sizes strewn all over the seashore. Maybe collecting isn’t their primary concern.

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For me, sea shells are my passion. I take them home as tokens of our sea for a lifetime’s keepsake. Every type of sea shell represent wonderful works of shell art created for thousands of years.

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Those empty sea shells were once a home to mollusks. These are soft and slimy sea creatures that build their shells by secreting a liquid that hardens in the passing of time. As the mollusk grows, their shell enlarge simultaneously. Special glands create color pigments just before new layers of shell harden. Marine mollusk are janitors of the sea bed. They forage for grub and serve as filters to cleanse our seas. Once washed ashore or crushed by strong waves, they also serve as food for fish or birds.

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Sea shells are our partners in maintaining an ecological balance of our sea environment. That is why we should NOT over-collect them as it may disturb our ecosystem.

Some unscrupulous collectors even capture live sea shells in bulk. They are killed, cleaned and sold commercially.

The 2001 Philippine Fisheries Administrative Order 208 protects rare, threatened, and endangered species of sea shells. Taking or catching them except for scientific research purposes is punishable by imprisonment of up to 20 years or a fine of up to P120,000 (USD 2,697) or both.

The best time to select and collect these cuties is during low-tide. You will be amazed how the vast seashore would appear carpeted by these multi-colored sea shells.

They come in two types. The gastropod can be identified with a single shell such as the conch and whelks, while the bivalves have two hinged shells like clams and scallops.

After selecting my choice shells I preserve them by boiling them to remove dead tissues. Then I flush the shells with pressurized water for final cleaning. I then group the shells into their respective species and store them in a wooden box. The bigger ones I’d use as home decor.

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Seashells and mollusk are also a favorite source of food in Sorsogon. There are numerous kinds of sea shells or conches. But most abundant and common edible conches in our area are called “sahang”, “balagwitan” and “liswik”.

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“Liswik” is usually found in mangroves by the shore and are easy to catch at low-tide.

“Sahang”, “Liswik” and “Balagwitan” are glossy brown in color with pointed ends. You need a pointed stick or perdible safety pin to remove the meat from the shell. They are cooked with coconut milk and potato vine.

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Also found here are shells with a pointed end. Eating its meat once cooked is by sucking the opening of shell to pull the meat out.

We call the bigger and longer one as “lansangan” or “burubod”.

The smaller (we call it “sihi”) and the bigger but shorter (we call it “dodo-dodo” or “samong”) ones are what we gather from mangroves or rocks.

You will need a bolo (native machete) to chop off pointed end of the “burubod”, “sihi” and “dodo-dodo” shells before cooking so you can suck out its meat.

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Another interesting seashell found here is called “layag-layag”. It is known to be quite venomous if not handled correctly when caught. It has a kind of sharp “tongue” like tissue that injects the venom. When I was a kid I used to play with this not knowing it was venomous. While petting it, I just saw my finger bleeding. Thereafter, I learned to hold the “layag-layag” from behind. However, its venom disappears once cooked. Its meat is super delicious. This shell is one of my favorites. Picking out its meat is effortless. Just use a table fork and enjoy its tasty meat.

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We also have lots of clams that are cooked with creamy coconut milk and veggies. They can be grilled with butter or just simply boiled and dip in soy sauce. And that’s good enough for a poor man’s lunch.

Delicious clam soup cooked with ginger and fresh highly nutritious and medicinal “malunggay” or horseradish (Moringa) leaves is another one of my favorites. It is said to prevent goiter.

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Other than sea shells, Sorsogon also boasts of several varieties of crustaceans. They are scientifically called arthropods. Edible crustaceans include crabs, lobsters, and shrimps to say the least. I am sure all of you are familiar with these fine and yummy table fare.

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Among the numerous crustaceans found in our waters, crabs, shrimps and lobsters are top choices for native dishes cooked Bicol (our province) style. There are more than a hundred and one ways we cook these dishes. And boy, they are all mouth- watering delicacies found only in this part of the world.

The main ingredients that go with Bicol seafood dishes are coconut milk, sweet potato tops and spinach leaves, veggies of your choice, spices like onions, garlic and of course hot chili peppers.

The Bicol region is known for their spicy dishes, quite similar to Thai food I would say. Cooking is simple, quick and without too much frills. Just serve it hot and voila, you have a dish you will want every time.

Here is how I cook my favorite crab dish.

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1) Using an ice pick, I pierce the center mass of a freshly caught crab to “dispatch” it ( please refer to my photo above).

2) Wash it well then boil the crab(s) in coconut milk mixed with crushed garlic and a bit of salt and wait until the crab turns red in color.

3) Add coconut cream, thinly sliced onions, salt and chili pepper with washed spinach leaves or any leafy veggies you like. Then cook over a fire or stove.

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Another way I cook it is by:

1) Steaming the crab, lobster or shrimp.

2) Boil unripe and chopped jackfruit (papaya or any veggie fruit will do) in coconut milk with crushed garlic until cooked.

3) Then add the steamed crustacean, coconut cream with thinly sliced onions and peppers. Add salt to taste. Turn off the stove after a few minutes (Don’t forget lest you end up with a grilled or over-cooked dish! LOL).

Serve with steaming plain rice and cold drinks!

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By the way, we have a unique and rare crustacean called “kupapa” or the Slipper Lobster here in Sorsogon. It looks like a regular lobster but it is clawless, clumsy and slow. In Israel they call it “the sea cricket”. It is normally cooked split and grilled with melted butter. Being an endangered specie, catching this lobster is prohibited in Israel and Italy. This big and fatter crustacean is known only to divers and adventurous gourmands. In other words, it is a super rare delicacy. And what’s more, its sweet meat is super duper delicious. I had the privelege of eating this lobster only once. And boy! this is one of a kind delicacy I will never forget. It is very expensive and sought after in foreign restaurants by gourmets. And you know what? I had mine for FREE! I hope I stirred up your gastronomic appetite guys! If you can find one, let’s drink to that!

Cheers!

[Originally published at bitLanders.com rated 5/5 Star]

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