What is your favorite Filipino hometown food? Food and recipes that is only available in your hometown that you miss most? In my hometown in Marinduque, there’s kare kare sa dugo, adobo sa dilaw, ginataang sikad sikad, mulawin berries. And a whole lot more.
But this is what I miss the most. This is a delicious Filipino food you can’t find in most other Philippine provinces or cities. In the province of Marinduque is this most wonderful seafood that I can’t find in the markets of Manila. Balakwit is a type of edible seashell (or mollusk) that can only be reliably found in the Southern Tagalog (Quezon, Mindoro, and Batangas) and Palawan.
It is a big brother to Sikad, or sikad-sikad, which is a kind of seashell that is more common and easier to find. There is not much difference between balakwit and sikad except that balakwit is bigger. Sikad-sikad or jumping shell is a type of small clam . Its name comes from its tendency to “jump” or move around when exposed to air, which is a natural defense mechanism.
In the olden days (haha) the balakwit in Marinduque (or the sikad) used to be sold and measured in those old Caltex “tabo” but now they’re costlier and being sold per kilo! You see old women carrying pails of sikad walking and shouting Sikad Sikad much like the Irish Molly Malone song selling “cockles and mussels alive alive’ o”.
For those who have not yet tasted this seafood recipe, I can only describe the meat of sikad as sweet and chewy. You don’t exactly eat the seashell but rather, the little animals (mollusks) that live inside it, maybe a cousin of snails or coconut crabs? The seashells are usually cooked with coconut milk (sometimes with Gabi (taro) and sometimes, as in this case, plain niluyahan soup (cooked in ginger). It’s a soup that literally smells and tastes like the sea.
Niluyahang Balakwit (Seashell Soup Cooked in Ginger)
- A knob of Ginger
- Sitaw (String Beans)
- 1 kilo Balakwit Seashells (cleaned)
- Clean seashells by putting 1 tbsp salt and leaving it for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, massage the shells roughly to clean it and rinse quickly in running water. (at this point, they are still alive and leaving them in regular water will kill them and you would not have a very good soup.
- Saute ginger in oil, add string beans, and continue sauteing until the string beans have changed color.
- Add 2 cups of water and let boil. Season with salt.
- While boiling, add the sea shells. Allow to reach boiling point again, mix, then quickly turn off heat once bubbling. (or else the meat will be very hard to pry out of the shell)
- Serve with pins for prying out the sea shell meat. Enjoy!