Saang / Spider Shell / Lambis Scorpius

They aren’t endangered, I checked. And they are a common source of protein for many seaside residents in Cebu, Bohol and the rest of the Visayas. A beautiful specimen shell, we used to have several of these in our shell collection when it was still acceptable to collect shells… today, it’s a bit un-pc. For hundreds if not thousands of years, natives have collected various types of seashells, extracted their meats, and added them to their diet. It was as common as eating fish or fowl or wild boar… And while eating “specimen” shells might be odd to some readers, it isn’t any different from eating clams, mussels, snails, etc.

For our recent summer outing, one of the crew’s family members who lived on a nearby island agreed to bring us some of the freshest catch of the day and that happened to include several kilos of spider shells or saang, also known scientifically as lambis scorpius. Apparently, these are caught quite young, and kept in pens to grow and be harvested when they have a sufficient number to take to market… They are a delicacy, and their meat is slightly chewy, flavorful and succulent. A little googling suggests they are a kind of conch, so it’s NO SuRPRISE indeed that they are quite edible… think of conch chowder if you are from Florida or thereabouts…

Here, another type of edible seashell which locals were selling but we didn’t eat…

…and yet another variety. There was a time when the Philippine seas were teeming with these shells and they were an easy source of protein, as well as the shells going into various handicrafts or being exported to other countries. These days, harvesting shells is reaching the point where it’s a no-no (already so for endangered varieties like giant clams, etc.), so it may not be long before event these types of food will not be available legally… Again, I reiterate that if there just weren’t so darned many of us (Filipinos) we wouldn’t have depleted all of our natural resources so rapidly…

Here a batch of spider shells freshly caught, and sold still alive.

We grilled the several kilos worth of spider shells, and the meats are simply picked out of the shell. It was the first time I had tasted this particular variety and they were delicious. And after finding out they are closely related to conch’s, I can see myself experimenting with a “saang chowder” the next time we have an abundant supply of them… :)


28 Responses

  1. I remember those!!!!!! …third picure, aren’t they the ones we used in sungka?

    Yup. we have frozen conch here. My MIL adds them to her Chinese soup and simmers them to death like abalone together with Chinese mushrooms, sea cucumber (sometimes), bean curd sticks…..can’t get enough of that soup.

    Care to try my chowder recipe, MM?…it won a local chowder contest about 5 years ago!

  2. We also used cowrie shells for sungka down our way BettyQ. They are shiny white ones which if you picked at the beach yourself and not careful in handling them can lure all the flies within a kilometer radius of your house. The oblique Market Manila connection is, the Italians thought cowries look like tiny piglets and called them porcelana (lat. porcus) which Marco Polo, on returning to Venice, used to describe the vitreous pottery he saw being used everywhere in Yuan dynasty China. Anyway, if the meat of the shells you bought is anywhere close to that of conch, they definitely would be delicious as fritters too.

  3. Could they be served as sashimi like the geoduck? Maybe good.

    @Footloose, yes cowrie shells is what we used for sungka as well. Have not played it in a long time. @BettyQ, is that soup similar to the FaChay Tang that is served during Chinese New Year?

  4. Bakerwannabe: I don’t know the Chinese name of the soup….have to ask hubby! If FaChay Tang is the one with the hair, it must be similar to it for there is bean curd sticks in it as well, isn’t it? I am not much of a meat eater, that is why MIL puts sea cucumber or abalone or conch in it for me!

    Also, if you buy geoduck, bakerwannabe, the clam part inside the shell, wash thoroughly removing the gunk and the sand…then as Footloose described, excellent fritters with corn! Use beer batter (fish and chip batter), drop by the teaspoonfuls only in hot oil…I usually DOUBLE FRY! …make a lot and fry only till pale, pale golden ..more like blondish in color and then FREEZE!!!! When we have a craving…then fry again in hot oil till golden this time!

    Dippity-do -da: a vinaigrette of some sort with herbs (I like cilantro, green onions) garlic, salt/pepper/ jalapeno, vinegar (I use white balsamic), olive oil…just like pinakurat!

  5. Please,do share tbe award winning chowder recipe, bettyQ!!i could imagine it’s rich and delicious..

    @Footloose- growing up, we were taught foot-hygiyene.”Wash your feet or they’d smell like rotting cowrie shells!”.words to live by..

  6. oh, those are delicious, but i’ve never had them grilled, always in soup with a lot of ginger and malunggay. a local supermarket sells them by the kilo, unshelled.

  7. bettyq, chowder recipe, please! my husband does not care for the usual bacon-potato-cream chowder.

  8. BettyQ, yes it is the one with the hair. It sounds very similar. Freezing the fried conch meat is a good idea. I will try it next time I get some. Thank you. May I have your chowder recipe?

  9. My favorite type is the one in the 4th picture. I don’t eat now as much as I did growing up in Mindanao using safety pins to get the meat out. I prefer this over halaan (na madalas binibili ng katulong).

  10. Islafood restaurant. .now saang restaurant serves these adobo style..but i like the binga shellfish because it is the size of a babys head . And they slice them thinly served adobo style too.can you imagine a chewy adobo…

  11. My mother-in-law would often make a tasty adobo out of the saang meat,,,=) Thank Sir, for the reminder, its time to go home to Bohol.

  12. Millet et al: if you do not care for the New England or Boston Clam Chowder, follow the add ons. What I have made is combine the 2….the Manhattan (red) and the Boston (white) making it West Coast (PNW) style clam chowder. Since we are in the West Coast, I subbed my home smoked Indian Candy instead of the bacon. But no Indian Candy….by all means use bacon. I also used clam base (concentrated clam juice….follow MM’s recipe in latest post of Vongole pasta or you can use fish stock). Another ingredient is tarragon…if you cannot find tarragon but can find fennel bulb use it in place of tarragon. For those who are GLUTEN INTOLERANT, instead of making a roux with flour and butter as thickener, you can thicken it with INSTANT MASHED POTATOES! Ok…I think I have covered all my bases!

    I have cut the recipe in half and will yield about 6 litres ( 1 jug plus 2 litre container of milk which isn’t actually a lot of soup!). Measurements are in metric for requirement cannot be tancha method!

    60 gm. butter (about 2 tbsp)
    250 gm. bacon (half a pound) or Indian Candy

    Sweat until bacon is crisp. Then add:

    450 gm. (1 pound) half inch diced onions
    450 gm. half inch diced celery
    450 gm. half inch diced carrots
    pinch of thyme
    2 to 3 pinches of tarragon (or half a small fennel bulb, diced and added with the vegetables)
    4 bay leaves

    Saute until vegetables are cooked. Then make a roux with:
    170 gm . flour
    220 gm. butter


    Cook everything for about 5 minutes. Add 1-28 oz can Italian plum tomatoes (puree juice and tomato). Simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes . Then add:

    2 lts. milk
    1 lt. cream
    150 gm. clam base (if you are in my neck of the woods, you can get clam base at Granville Island Market or Gourmet Warehouse…IAM NOT PAID FOR THIS ENDORSEMENT!!!)

    Simmer the mixture for a good 45 minutes. Then add:

    3/4 KG. dice boiled or steamed potatoes. At this point for those who will use mashed potato sa as thickener, add it at this point….adding more if necessary.
    2-28 cans of clams including nectar

    Simmer everything for 10 to 15 minutes.

    Ladle soup in bowl and add baby shrimp/some diced cooked fish/or mussels. Garnish with chopped Italian flat parsley or fennel fronds.

  13. I have a recipe for conch fritter here, just in case you find this interesting as well:
    Conch Fritters

    Yield: 12 large or 24 small fritters

    Prep Time: 20 minutes | Cook Time: 10 minutes

    For the Conch Fritters:
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon sugar
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 egg, lightly beaten
    6 tablespoons buttermilk
    8 ounces conch, finely minced
    1 jalapeño, finely minced
    ¼ cup finely minced white onion
    ¼ cup finely minced red bell pepper
    ¼ cup finely minced carrots
    1 clove garlic, minced
    ¾ teaspoon Creole seasoning
    Vegetable oil, for frying

    For the Dipping Sauce:
    ½ cup salsa
    1 cup mayonnaise
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    ½ teaspoon dried basil
    ½ teaspoon salt
    ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
    ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    1. Make the Dipping Sauce: Puree the salsa in a blender. Transfer to a medium bowl and add the mayonnaise, garlic powder, basil, salt, cayenne, and pepper and whisk well to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Stir well before serving.

    2. Make the Fritters: Pour oil into a small frying pan or deep skillet, so that it comes at least one inch up the sides of the pan. Heat the oil to 350 degrees F.

    3. Meanwhile, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and egg in a large bowl and stir well (the combination will look shaggy). Add the buttermilk to create a thick paste (the mixture should be the consistency of muffin batter). Stir in the conch, jalapeño, onion, red pepper, carrots, garlic, and seasoning, making sure that the ingredients are evenly distributed.

    4. Using spoons or a cookie scoop, drop 1-inch balls of batter into the oil. Fry, turning with a slotted spoon, until golden brown, about 2 minutes for smaller fritters, up to 4 minutes if you made them a little larger. If you need to, work in batches so that you don’t over-crowd the pan.

    5. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the fritters to paper towels to drain. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.

    Note: If you can’t fine conch, you can substitute shrimp.

  14. namit :) I had a conch and shell eatfest in Sagay City last December. So many shapes, so many names.

  15. We love this seashell. My aunt stir fries it with oyster sauce and black beans and onion leaves. I like it when she makes it a spicy. yum!

  16. saang cooked (Visayan) adobo style is really delicious! i tried the dish (only P99.00/serving in Surigao) for the first time while backpacking around eastern Mindanao a couple of weeks ago and i couldn’t stop raving about it! tsssssarap talaga!

  17. I’ve had conch before in Florida. They simply dip it in batter then fry. To me, it looked and tasted similar to calamares. If it’s similar to conch then that would be one way of cooking it.

  18. thanks, bettyq and Angel! so timely because i have some clam broth in the freezer leftover from the vongole yesterday. can’t wait to try both recipes.

  19. I had fond memories of these when I was a kid in ilocos. We used to throw a couple of this in charcoal, grill for like 3minutes or so then bang it up with a stone to break the shell.

  20. In Surigao, they stirfry it in oyster sauce. I had it for the first time last July. Thanks for the added information, now I know it is a type of conch.



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