One of the sweetest most succulent shellfish I have ever tasted. A specialty of Negros and Capiz, these incredibly delicious clams were considered nearly endangered a few years ago. Harvesting them was banned or curtailed for a period of several years, and it seems they have recovered a bit and are now being sold again in small quantities. I tasted these for the first time just last Christmas, here, so I was hoping that on our recent very brief trip to Bacolod that I would see them as close to the source as possible. The food gods were highly cooperative… We did an hour long or so roadtrip to Valladolid, south of Bacolod to visit the Church there, where one of our group’s parents had gotten married, and to attend the town fiesta which happened to be that Saturday.
We spotted this roadside diwal vendor just a kilometer or so outside Valladolid town proper and stopped. A little bargaining, some sweet talk (that’s what Ilonggo sounds like to me, regardless of topic under discussion!) from our local friends, et voila, a price of PHP180 a kilo, the jackpot I am told, and we asked for 6 kilos, no make that 8 kilos, no add another few kilos, and soon everyone in our van managed to buy every single diwal this vendor had in stock! I was a bit worried about driving around for another few hours with live shellfish, but it seems these are incredibly resilient and live and thrive for several more days as long as they are in some salt water and in a cool place…
Often referred to as “Angel Wing Clam” or Cyrtopleura costata, these seem very similar, though smaller, than their western relatives. There isn’t much information about our local species, but all I can say it they taste heavenly (pun intended). Thrown on a grill or stuck in a hot oven they open up and reveal sweet meat. Sometimes they have a sack filled with what I can only refer to as guts, and if you are up to it, I suppose this can be removed prior to serving them. If you add a little sweet butter and a sprinkling of salt that is about as much enhancement as they need.
These are still considered a seasonal delicacy, and not many folks know about them unless you have visited these parts and been lucky enough to taste them… I understand Margarita Fores sometimes serves them at Cafe Bola so if you get a chance, try them there.
The next day, we spotted more of the clams for sale in Bacolod city proper from a live sea food vendor. At PHP380-400 a kilo there they cost TWICE the price of the roadside guy the day before. But in aerated water, you can see how lively they are and their “feet’ are all out and twisting about. Happy as a clam. :)