saang - spider conch

Saang shells anyone?

Held by its operculum, the cooked mollusk is slowly extracted from its shell

Held by its operculum, the cooked mollusk is slowly extracted from its shell

Growing up in Cebu, an island province with just the coastline less than a kilometer from our house and coupled with a public market that has the freshest seafood, it’s no wonder that I am exposed to different kinds of shellfish as food. And one of my favorites? Saang a large sized univalve mollusk that is either boiled or cooked over coals.

Saang is popularly known as spider conch, a marine snail that is identified by its flared outer lip with its hollow digits emanating from the margin and which are ornamental in nature. It is under the genus Lambis in the family Strombidae.

While I was waiting for the pumpboat at the small wharf of Punta Engaño at the northwestern tip of Mactan Island, enroute to Olango Island to shoot a resort, I saw this lady with her pail full of saang. A security guard near her was voraciously eating the delicious meat out of the shell, piece by delicious piece. Who won’t be envious at such a sight?

A few drops of cane vinegar will make this shell a delicious morsel

A few drops of cane vinegar will make this shell a delicious morsel

I came up to her,

Tagpila nang? (How much?), I asked.

Tag singko dong (Just five pesos per piece of shell), she answered.

At that price, who would say no considering that these are quite fresh? She told me that it was cooked boiled.

Lima nang (5 shells please), I told her.

Pail full of spider conch, boiled and ready to eat fresh

Pail full of spider conch, boiled and ready to eat fresh

I took one, held it by one hand with the opening faced up. I took the vinegar with cane vinegar, poured a few drops at the opening. Placed the vinegar down and grabbed the operculum, slowly took out the mollusk and ate it. Surprisingly, the creature is easy to extract as we used to break the shell with a hammer or rock just to get to the meat.

Delicious. Sweet, sour. Soft. Fresh. And I ate 10 shells. Sated.

What about you? Have you tasted this shell? Or even the tamilok (woodworm)?

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications.

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces.

I’m open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

One Comment

  1. Micole l Philippine Traveler
    October 21, 2013 @ 10:05

    No for both, I could never stomach trying Tamilok, hahaha But this, i would! I like seafood and shells rank top! =) Safe Eating sir estan! =)

    PS: I do hope all is well with you in Cebu or your family perhaps due to the Earthquake. praying for all who are affected. =)

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