04 Sep2007

Explosive Clams!!!

by Marketman


How can one or two little itsy bitsy clams cause Marketman so much grief? Yesterday I spotted some clams in a holding tank and purchased two kilos as I thought they would make a delicious and relatively low calorie dinner last night. Now I have been wary of local shellfish in the past, and grew up with a mother who thought all local shellfish including clams were a certain ticket to a bad stomach, but I LOVE clams and mussels so I bought them anyway. I should have taken note that it was a Monday. Never EVER buy shellfish in Manila on a Monday or Tuesday, they are almost certainly left over from the weekend. I also should have noticed the higher than normal “lumot” or green gunge on the shells as a sign of coming from murky, more soil based waters. And despite extracting a promise from the vendor that these were indeed from the cleaner waters of Zambales, I should have told her that if I fell ill, I would come back to her and force-feed her with the remainder of my cooked clams…

At any rate I made the clams into a pseudo-Possilipo recipe (up next), ate nearly 20 pieces and Mrs. MM had roughly 10 and the kid roughly 7 pieces. The Kid spat out one of the clams that didn’t seem right. I ate all of mine. Now I must tell you to stop reading this post if you are the queasy type, but read on if you have a warped sense of humor… I was banking on Jeffrey Steingarten’s contention that there is probably only one bad clam in a thousand so in one’s lifetime you are only likely to get a bad one once or twice, and the rest of the time, you can eat clams to your heart’s content. I wonder if he would still assert that if I gave him one of my clams last night. About three hours after dinner, I started to feel queasy, and a half hour later I knew I had eaten that one bloody clam of my supposed lifetime. How something just a few grams in weight can cause so much grief is beyond me. As Mrs. MM and The Kid slept peacefully, I suddenly had to jump out of bed and let forth enough slightly processed clam trajectory to launch a small aircraft. The sound and heaves were so bad that I literally woke up the neighbors, whose bedroom is 15 meters away and they had their airconditioning on! They looked out to see who was being murdered (our property having had an attempted burglary before), I could see them from the floor of the bathroom but they couldn’t see me, as I cursed quietly and my system went into utter shock. Our pet labrador could sense that her provider of kibbles was in acute pain, and barked constantly for 10-15 minutes to help chase away the stomach boogie monsters. It was so bad that I considered getting into a car and driving to the nearest hospital to get my stomach pumped, but I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to concentrate enough to stay on the road! At any rate, after the volcanic eruptions subsided, I tried to go back to sleep, only to have the mother of Krakatoa explode again and again and I spent the rest of the evening in a fitful doze, clutching my stomach and wondering if my throat had been scoured with muriatic acid. I had an important appointment early this morning, and I was certain I would be unable to make it… But lo and behold, by 5:30 am, things had stabilized enough so that I could head to Cavite to watch some tinapa being made from scratch…something I have wanted to do for years. Oh, and this was “my time.” Mrs. MM and The Kid were totally fine. Four other people ate some of the clams and nothing happened. So the clams weren’t all bad, because if they were, I would tell you exactly where I bought them so that they never sell another bloody clam again… :( The silver lining in this clammy experience? I lost 2.5 pounds OVERNIGHT, so I decided to eat whatever I felt like eating today… :)



  1. chad says:

    This is now one of my favorite entries ever…and ironically, its about bad food. I had the right suspicion when clicking “Explosive Clams”…haha

    Sep 4, 2007 | 9:44 pm


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  3. jong says:

    whoa, MM – that was such a fun read :) i mean, 2.5 lbs overnight? what a clam! :)

    Sep 4, 2007 | 9:48 pm

  4. chad says:

    MM, did you /do you ever use a separation technique for bad clams before they were cooked? Like when I cook tahong and place them in water first, I was raised to throw the floating ones. Is this true for clams too?

    Sep 4, 2007 | 9:51 pm

  5. nads says:

    do you ever drink chi medicines MM? we have this uber stinky black balls called SeiRoGan. drink a couple of these little balls and your stomack upset will be gone in an hour! if you’re interested, it’s sold in an orange box in those chinese stalls sa malls, or in binondo if you ever go there.

    Sep 4, 2007 | 10:10 pm

  6. annette says:

    I have the same traumatic experience with clams, just like those MM, and I would never ever put those kind of clams in my mouth.

    Sep 4, 2007 | 10:20 pm

  7. ykmd says:

    Glad your bout of food poisoning was short-lived! But your story was funny :)

    Sep 4, 2007 | 10:21 pm

  8. benchorizo says:

    Well, that’s funny. Glad you’re fine now. I went home for a vacation to Iloilo early this year after 9 years and the first thing I had the night I arrived was oysters, among other things. Bad move. My first week was mostly spent at home for fear of embarrasing myself in public. But that’s not the end of it. Thinking it was a fluke (it could have been anything), I had oysters again (just a few) a couple of weeks later over lunch and guess what? I racked up frequent flyer miles to the bathroom again. A week before we left, our host in Roxas City had bragged about having oysters harvested by their own workers that morning and boy, did they look fresh! I had 3 pieces. You know the rest of the story. The upside was I was 12 pounds lighter on my way back to the U.S.

    Been lurking here for a while.

    Sep 4, 2007 | 10:23 pm

  9. tei says:

    i know exactly how you felt that night! but it was the oysters that did me. i had a couple of oysters at one of the fine dining restaurants and took their word that their oysters are flown fresh everyday one in the morning and afternoon straight from roxas. anyway, i love oysters and i single-handedly ate the whole platter. after 3-4 hours, i woke up in the middle of the night with a super bad stomach. it was such an excruciating pain and i had to go to the loo several times during the night. there were times when after “letting them go”, it felt like it was the last of them and i felt so damn relieved. but it wasn’t the last of it! during those excruciating times i said to myself never again will i eat oysters! but i love oysters and after about a month or so, i’m back eating them.. but not anymore at that resto!

    the next morning i went to the doc and prescribed polymagma & gatorade. it worked! i felt better. at least now i know should i have another “episode”, at first pang of stomach grumbles, i’ll take those meds.

    glad you feel better now.

    Sep 4, 2007 | 11:32 pm

  10. bugsybee says:

    Whoa! I seem to be hearing more and more horror stories about clams and oysters. Had a bad experience myself with clams and oysters about a year ago (but nothing like your Krakatoa experience) and I thought it was just me. Clams were my favorite but I’ve vowed never to touch them again.

    Keep gatorade and hydrite in your medicine cabinet or picnic bag.

    Sep 4, 2007 | 11:48 pm

  11. Silly Lolo says:

    My deepest sypathies, MM. I have been there, done that! In my case, it was oysters plucked from the rocks by yours truly, shucked and eaten right there on the beachside just minutes after. Disposed of roadside an hour later along the beautiful Pacific Northwest Coast Highway 1.
    Totally yucky!

    Sep 4, 2007 | 11:59 pm

  12. joey says:

    So sorry about your clam episode! :( I know exactly what that’s like…it happened to me in Boracay, and I was leaving the next day! Yes, the “force” at which the dreaded “poison” is expelled by the body is shocking. It’s also kinda miraculous though…it’s like your body knows that something bad is inside and just goes on “autopilot” until it gets rid of it…of course, you are along for the bumpy ride with no control whatsoever!

    That being said…I’m so glad I read the whole post! :) I didn’t want to laugh I swear!

    Sep 5, 2007 | 12:10 am

  13. shalimar says:

    i love clams luckily we have bought some fresh ones in italy…though it took enough courage for me to eat bivalves again as I was so sick years ago because of a bad one.

    Sep 5, 2007 | 12:12 am

  14. Myra P. says:

    The only places i’ve eaten shellfish with zero fear is Long Island and NZ. We literally walked into the water and harvested our own Montauk oysters, so fresh and plentiful that I consumed almost 40 with nary a side effect. The NZ mussels were as big as my hand and although slightly chewy due to its size, I had no qualms consuming entire bowls of them. Never got sick.

    The two times in my life when I’ve had extremely serious food poisoning, it was caused by bad mushrooms on a pizza in John Hay, and yogurt on a transpacific Northwest flight. Both times, my vacation was ruined.

    Sep 5, 2007 | 12:38 am

  15. Apicio says:

    Intensely relieved to know you survived and a few pounds lighter at that but that was neither a blessing nor in disguise. You are a fortunate man but you can only push your luck so much. Pristine waters from which to gather or grow shellfish seem to be disappearing as quickly as ice in either poles.

    Sep 5, 2007 | 12:56 am

  16. Maria Clara says:

    You never know you had bad ones until bedtime hit and wake you up in the middle of your sleep and that urgency to expel it right there. I picture it like a brewing lava inside a volcano awaiting to explode to leash out the tension! Nothing will stop. It has to go once it’s gone you feel better like going into a labor after three or four rounds of dropping with noise accompanying each drop. The second trip to a john is not as bad as the initial course but it has to go with all precious juice – electrolytes and nutrients going out. Yes, that’s how anorexia loses weight by taking laxatives after indulging with heavy meals or forced vomiting! Bad mollusks have the same effect as the Chinese herbal slimming tea. Drink a lot of water or regular 7Up and you will regain your strength overnight!

    Sep 5, 2007 | 2:37 am

  17. Consol says:

    I was absent for a day because of mussels, this time. As my husband was preparing to go to the wet market last Monday, I wondered aloud whether it’s okay to have some mussles or if the Red Tide flag is up. Well, he came home later with a kilo which I promptly cooked (after discarding the floating ones as Mama taught me). We three adults ate everything during lunch. Agree with Maria Clara: you never know you had bad ones until bedtime … never had trouble with mussles before so I was unsettled by the queasy feeling that wouldn’t go away. I took a short albeit restless nap and then bolted out of bed because my stomach was heaving. Thar she blows!! Everything but everything flowed out not like MM’s high-flying missiles, but like lava, slow-moving and crawling … and the cycle went on every few minutes or so … interspersed with ‘go potty’ moments.’ *sigh* You feel so weak and wobbly … funny thing is, my two other companions didn’t have any trouble at all, drat and double drat. Good thing the childre weren’t there; my son would have loved to have some, too. Boy was he spared.

    I wil keep in mind MM’s caveat to never ever buy shellfish on a Monday … lesson learned the hard way.

    Sep 5, 2007 | 7:02 am

  18. Consol says:

    woops! sorry — ‘mussles’ on lines 2 and 6 should be ‘mussels.’

    Sep 5, 2007 | 7:05 am

  19. Mila says:

    Ooooh! Sorry to hear about the bad clam episode! A night spent saluting the porcelain throne is not how you want to spend an evening. And you still had the energy to drive to Cavite for tinapa? Kudos to your health, that’s a quick recovery.

    I can’t eat mussels anymore, have had two horrible bouts on two seperate occasions eating them (in the US and here), and I don’t want to push my luck.

    Sep 5, 2007 | 8:03 am

  20. Gerri says:

    Good to hear you’re well now and also that you’re family was not affected. Your stamina is top notch as you still drove to Cavite. As my Mother is also reading this she just wants to say that this just reinforces that old, old thing about her tribe knowing what’s best.

    Sep 5, 2007 | 8:50 am

  21. Cumin says:

    So sorry to hear about your volcanic eruption. I was shaking with laughter (sorry) while reading this post, but my partner, reading alongside, excitedly repeated, ‘He’s going to lose weight, he’s going to lose weight!’ Totoo nga!
    I know how you must’ve felt, I got horrible food poisoning from tahong last year and has to be brought to ER at 2 a.m. Traumatic.

    Sep 5, 2007 | 8:53 am

  22. hchie says:

    Hope you’re better. I had one such experience a few years back and ONE bad mussel was enough to rush me to the ER of Makati Med.

    Sep 5, 2007 | 9:07 am

  23. Robyn says:

    Please don’t be offended when I tell you this post had me laughing myself off my chair. MM, I have so been there! At least you put a humorous spin on it. Hope you’re feeling better and that you haven’t been put off clams for the rest of your life.

    Sep 5, 2007 | 9:09 am

  24. peterb says:

    It’s good that you’re feeling better MM. Entertaining post though, at your expense. When it comes to clams, oysters and mussels, i can eat them, but i can’t eat too much or else something similar happens to me. Congrats on the 2.5 pounds, though do drink lots of fluids today.

    Sep 5, 2007 | 9:10 am

  25. Jennifer says:

    Oh dear, my best friend is going to have an oyster bar on her wedding day. Maybe I should warn her.

    Sep 5, 2007 | 9:16 am

  26. Trin says:

    Happened to me too! Oh the pain! I was 1 of 9 officemates who got the bad clam. And when I came in late the next day, puffy eyed and a few lbs lighter, they were incredulous…. was it really the chili clams? They all had it too and were fine. (Haay, they should read this blog.)

    It’s really amazing how intelligently the body digests, assimilates, and yes, rejects food!!! Looks like your systems are in tip top shape! :-)

    Sep 5, 2007 | 9:27 am

  27. corrrine_p says:

    Just a word of caution about food poisoning. Drink gatorade or take rehydrating tablets. You can die of food poisoning. Don’t dismiss diarrhea especially among children so easily. Go to the doctor or hospital right away. It happened to my youngest son and the rest of his classmates…case of food poisoning in school and as usual the culprit is spoiled spaghetti. When we brought him to the hospital after his diarrhea won’t stop. He was already dehydrated. Also in the case of older people. My friend’s father had cancer but he didn’t die of it but of dehydration when he ate something bad for his stomach. It was dismissed as a normal diarrhea. I think his system went to a shock. *sigh*

    Sep 5, 2007 | 9:36 am

  28. bernadette says:

    I’m so glad you bounced back to good health and even write about your Krakatoan saga so well.Your style of writing is so like a Spielberg movie—kung hindi ka mag-react sa isang scene, he will bombard you with so images until you just can’t help but either cry or laugh hysterically. I also had the same traumatic experience but this time with bad lechon. I was just attending my morning class when I felt soooo bad and sweaty and had to drag myself back home. Good thing our apartment was just a short distance away from the university. My auntie gave me a jigger of rhum and after a sound sleep, I was fine again to attend to my afternoon classes.

    Sep 5, 2007 | 9:41 am

  29. Adam says:

    I once spent a whole week in bed with terrible poisoning from Oysters – the amount of back and kidney pain (as well as all the other more dramatic effects) they induced was unbelievable! However, I am always happy to go back into battle again… we don’t often get the chance to escape to the coast from Manila these days so can anyone recommend a tried and tested source of shellfish here in Manila?

    Sep 5, 2007 | 9:49 am

  30. linda says:

    We had mussels and Balmain bugs last night for dinner and we had no trouble.Last week we had beautiful Sydney oysters and had no trouble either. I’m sorry to hear about your ordeal and feel better that you’re better.I couldn’t help from laughing though,as always we love your sense of humour!

    Sep 5, 2007 | 10:09 am

  31. Kongkong622 says:

    Please forgive me for having the best laugh I’ve had all week. And at your expense. This is one of the funniest posts I’ve read anywhere!!

    Anyway, I sincerely hope that you are feeling a whole lot better. You know, it’s a good thing that you did your whole “trajectory” thing. It’s the best way to expel all the bacteria you ingested. This happened to me last Christmas. I suspect it was from overeating and not from eating something bad. I had to be rushed to the ER at 4 a.m. because my husband thought I was half-dead. Well, too bad for him…I’m still alive and kicking :)

    Sep 5, 2007 | 10:16 am

  32. connie says:

    Whoa! Sure glad to know you are alright after that explosive episode and lost weight in the process!
    Never had any trouble eating them mollusks yet *knock on wood*.
    All I know is when mom would prepare mussels or clams she would sort them one by one. If they are tightly close then they are still alive, if they are slight open but closes immediately when you tap them, they are still alive and OK to be cook otherwise any slightly open clams get thrown out. Broken shells are no good obviously. Then she soak them in salt water to purge whatever they have eaten for an hour or until the water clears up a bit, changing the water constantly until it becomes slighly clear, she does this with crabs too. Then the mollusks undergoes another quality control, whatever floats get thrown out, because they are dead. And when they are being cook, whichever don’t open or does not open completely gets thrown out as well as they they too are bad.
    All I could remember is she forbids us from eating any mussels or clams that didn’t open after cooking.
    Now, I don’t worry much about doing such tedious job since the only mussels, Manila clams or little neck clams I get are either forzen or already been shucked.

    Sep 5, 2007 | 10:17 am

  33. CecileJ says:

    Am laughing too hard and can’t type a word of commisseration! Hope you gave the neighbors some of the tinapa to make up for them having to hear New Year explosions in September! :)

    P.S.: Yakult helps settle my stomach when I get the queasies.

    Sep 5, 2007 | 10:20 am

  34. millet says:

    you are crazy, MM…only you can make a funny post about something totally un-funny. 2 1/2 lbs overnight? new weight-loss secret a la MarketMan!

    Sep 5, 2007 | 10:25 am

  35. TOPING says:

    You got me in stitches with this post, MM. It happened to my mom a few months back, although the culprit wasn’t shellfish but coconut. It sure wasn’t funny then, seeing someone in terrible agony. We had to rush her to the hospital at midnight.

    Tip: drink lots of water after each visit to the loo.

    Sep 5, 2007 | 10:43 am

  36. sonny sj says:


    So sorry to hear about your explosive clams episode, but I am glad to hear you are now ok.

    Though a lot may disagree with me, I dont think a bad clam should entirely be blamed for you experience. Rather, you may belong to the group of people who have this shellfish “intolerance” especially if it is taken on a empty stomach. I know a lot of people who refuse to take clams as appetizers, for this very reason.

    A bad clam is a bad clam and believe me, no way can one swallow it; it is so bad it would smell/taste like the trajectories you launched last night. I know becasue I have been unlucky to have taken a few in the past.

    To separate the bad clams from the good ones, it is best to soak the clams in salted water 2-3 hours before cooking it. This would make the clams open a bit and “vomit” the sand inside the shells. Wash the clams and disregard those that remains open after washing. This are the bad ones.

    The excessive moss on the shell of the clams could be an indication the clams were harvested from places with brackish water (usually near rivers) rather than out from the open sea, where the really good clams can be found.

    As for mussels and oysters, simply disregard the open ones. In my experience floating tahong in water does not work 100% because air trapped in the shell makes even the good ones float in water too.

    I guess I am one of the lucky few who can enjoy shellfish any time of the day, even on an empty stomach and not get sick from it.

    Sep 5, 2007 | 11:18 am

  37. alilay says:

    Had clams yesterday too, a friend’s aunt from stockton brought clams and sell it for $5/bag i bought two bags , made clam chowder and the rest shucked and freeze for omelette. so far nothing explosive happened to us. i ate oyster from a buffet restaurant and even before i reach home my stomach was heaving and really projectile vomiting , i guess i’ve eaten it on an empty stomach as sonny sj said.

    Sep 5, 2007 | 11:39 am

  38. Blaise says:

    I thought you were able to encounter super big clams, and you called them Explosive.. hehehe.. ;)

    Sep 5, 2007 | 12:10 pm

  39. dizzy says:

    I guess clam eating is the “russian roulette” for food lovers. =)

    Sep 5, 2007 | 12:55 pm

  40. meekerz says:

    sorry to hear your explosive experience, but hahahaha, this was a funny post ;) at least you got 2.5 lbs off because of it ;)

    Sep 5, 2007 | 4:32 pm

  41. portugalbear says:

    This is the funniest blog i’ve ever read. I even shared this to my brother in the US and he was laughing himself silly. Seriously…. Sorry about that but I’ve been there and it’s not really funny if it happens to you. Thanks MM for making my day

    Sep 5, 2007 | 6:28 pm

  42. Rowi says:

    Hi MM,

    I’m so glad to hear that your terrible clam experience ended well, with less weight to boot. You may want to nurse your worn-out tummy by eating probiotic tablets as opposed to antibiotics, which kill the natural tummy bacteria.

    Your experience clearly showed that the one clam that was bad that hit you was a nasty strain of E. coli bacteria which is common among shellfish. Sorry, but you just had bad luck! At least your family was spared the pain and agony of your explosive ordeal!

    I’m allergic to clams and snails (kuhol, escargots) but thankfully not to oysters which I love dearly. I’ve had my brushes with not-so-good oysters but this hasn’t prevented me from enjoying a good slurp every now and then. Basta, I have my Probiomax, I can eat anything!

    Btw, read your post on questions to ask Marketmanila readers. Don’t know if it has been asked, how about food allergy and how to deal with it.

    Be well!

    Sep 5, 2007 | 10:47 pm

  43. Silly Lolo says:

    Is it my imagination or did this post just produce an
    “explosion” of comments? Tee-hee.

    Sep 6, 2007 | 12:30 am

  44. buffy says:

    Heeheehee… sorry MM but i’m giggling like a ninny over here… you just keep getting better and better and funnier and funnier!

    Sep 6, 2007 | 1:25 am

  45. DADD-F says:

    Well, I don’t think it is a laughing matter. Just glad you’re okay now. Sonny sj is also right.

    Anyway, we hardly eat molluscs here in Luzon except in coastal areas where we can also know for certain that the catch are fresh. But anywhere near the Manila Bay area, no way. I know enough that almost always, tahong there, for instance, would not be the greatest find, to say the least. Buti na lang I had enough exposure because of my work.

    Sep 6, 2007 | 4:59 pm

  46. kulasa says:

    Sorry MM but I can’t help but laugh at this post. Krakatoa!!! I had almost the same experience but tahong was the culprit. I used to love them but now I really hesistate (pero sige pa din ang kain). It just that I thought it was just a fluke thong pero the next time I tried it, parang lucky winner ako sa pagpili ng di dapat kainin tahong. So it happened – “not once, but twice” (familiar ba) – magkasunod pa. I thought of Mt. Pinatubo.

    Sep 7, 2007 | 9:18 am

  47. Lani says:

    I had the same experience, MM. I really love clams but I don’t know where to buy “clean” clams here in Manila.

    Sep 8, 2007 | 10:06 am

  48. Larees says:

    The silver lining in this clammy experience? I lost 2.5 pounds OVERNIGHT, so I decided to eat whatever I felt like eating today… :) –> this statement made me laugh out loud MM!

    Sep 14, 2007 | 4:02 am

  49. sister says:

    You should have listened to your mother…one bad clam and your day is over. If it’s any comfort getting a bad stomach within hours means it’s a bacterial infection, next day could possibly be viral, which is more serious.

    Sep 22, 2007 | 7:17 pm

  50. Cecilia says:

    Funny episode with a cute ending!

    Apr 5, 2009 | 3:10 pm


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