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My Favorite Shellfish

Every time when I go home to Penang, I like to spend my mornings going to local wet markets in search of fresh shellfish. Being an island, Penang is blessed with abundant supply of various kinds of shellfish and here are my favorites.

Kepah / Clams

Kepah. They are very similar to Manila Clams, but their shells are smooth with glossy tint of colors. They are also heavy.


Siput, my childhood favorite. I used to dig these beautiful Siput on the beaches in Batu Ferringhi. Unfortunately, they are hard to find these days.


Lala is a kind of soft-shell clam; the flesh is very tender and juicy. They are best stir-fried with soy sauce, shredded ginger, red chilies, and scallions.


Eating Balitong requires training and skills. Suck the tail and the head alternatively to extract the flesh. They are absolutely delectable and here is the proof.

Razor Clams

Razor clams. There is another variety where the shell is straight, thin, and long.

Cockles / Bloody Clams

Cockles. They are a must in classic Penang hawker food dishes such as Char Koay Teow or Penang Curry Mee.

Spikey Snail / 螺

Spikey snail (螺). They are uncommon but the flesh has a crunchy texture and tastes sweet.

So, which is your favorite?

Note: I would love to learn more about the types of shellfish found in your location. Do drop me an email, a picture or two, if you would like to share.

Related Post: Stir-fried Savory Clams Recipe

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19 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. toniXe

    spikey snail, 4 its rare texture n also 4 going so well with Jess Alba’s Tiger,(but at the same time sad that both are not available in KL )!

  2. Anonymous

    You know your “shell” well…

    I love lala and balitong…you get a sense of satifaction when pulling out the balitong’s flesh.


  3. Audrey Cooks

    I adore shell food too! Growing up in Penang, we use to have high doses of them weekly. I really miss eating them since I can’t get fresh ones here. Do u have the authentic chili recipe for balitong?

  4. Rasa Malaysia

    Tonixe – what’s the shellfish “scene” like in KL wet markets? When I was attending school there, I remember I couldn’t find much there. Spikey snails are rare…once in a while, they show up in the market in Penang.

    TehSee – exactly. Eating balitong is quite an experience: everyone of them is different; some frustrating to no end when you fail to pull the flesh out while others give you a real sense of “accomplishment.”

    Audrey Cooks – Yes, “high doses of them weekly” sounds about right. What kind of “species” do you get in KL?

    For Balitong recipe, you can improvise the recipe I have here:

    I would grind the ginger with the chili paste. Other than that, add in some ground peanut while you stir fry the balitong, a little sugar, and you have the perfect balitong dish. Now this is making me really “jealous” because there is NO balitong here in the US. :(

  5. teckiee

    see ham see ham!!!! I love it esp on Lok Lok!!!! I dont really like balitong, not because of the texture.. but because I never got to learn the technique of sucking the flesh out hehehehe. I dont like the spikey snail. Nice to see tho, but the flesh so skinny and … dunno la.. lala nicer

  6. flower

    I miss eating kerang since I havent seen Kerang here in Perth, the malay would cook the balitong as a masak lemak but I prefer it to be cooked with kicap. My nanny, once a upon a time used to boil the softshell claim with only ginger and serai. Yummy….

  7. Audrey Cooks

    Thanks for your balitong recipe, must try it at home since the hawkers don’t wash those little suckers properly…sometimes a bit muddy. We have kepah, cockles (pretty good ones including the Japanese hairy cockles), lala, even than (the long lala) but the only difference, it are pretty difficult to get them really fresh whereas in Penang, all the wet markets hv abundance of these sea wonders!

  8. lucia

    i like all!! yummy! i love shellfish!! so love ’em all lah. no favourite! all are my favourites! :)
    oops. but the spiky snail, i haven’t eaten it before.

  9. Rasa Malaysia


    Yes, cockles are the best with Lok-Lok, I always eat extra skewers of them. And with Char Kueh Teow and Penang Curry Mee, I always ask the hawker to add more of those.

    Flower – yes, my mother and my aunt also cook Balitong as masak lemak, with sweet potatoes, some leaves called Manis Cai (in Hokkien), and balitong. Sooooo good!

    Audrey Cooks – What are hairy cockles? You will have to take pictures for me. ;)

    I look forward to seeing your Balitong dish!

    Lucia – yeah, when it comes to shellfish, I eat them all. They all taste so good especially when stir-fried with chili! Yum.

  10. Rasa Malaysia

    Mr. T,

    Welcome to Rasa Malaysia! Yes, my RSS feeds (both RSS and Atom) should be working, but somehow, only a few posts show up?!

    Since I upgraded to Blogger Beta, a couple of things stopped working properly. But you can try it out and let me know.

    Do come back often. :)

  11. toniXe

    In KL, normal wet markets stock mostly lalas & seehums I think( bcoz I never go to wet markets hehehe ! altho I understand certain restaurants,esp seafood ones might have more varieties ).

    In JB theres one particular place selling ‘kong kongs’ a sort of thick shell lalas just tasting like mr spikey, & also using toothpicks !

    Check DA WHEELS ( meiyen) site for v famous lalachong in Subang

    Then theres one funny Chinaman rest. in Selayang selling very very drunken lalas, & hairy crabs.

    d spikey is not available in KL as far as I know…I only tried them in Bkt Tambun with toothpicks.

  12. Robyn

    If you don’t already have them, Alan Davidson’s SE Asia and Mediterranean seafood guides are excellent resources (good recipes too)!

  13. Elena

    Awww your post reminded me of my childhood, when my grandmum was still alive. We used to korek siput and when we got home, my grandmum would wash them and fry them with soya sauce, shallots and sugar :) soooo yummy when eaten with warm rice! (preferably the starchy kind)

  14. Rasa Malaysia

    Tonixe – thanks for all the 411…will head over to Mei Yean’s site after I finish tying this.

    Hey Robyn – thanks for the information. Will look into the seafood guides.

    Elena – yes, yes, siput dark soy sauce, shallots and sugar!

  15. Keropok Man

    “see ham” / cockles are my favourites!

    i can safely eat them after taking Hep B shots, yes those 3 shots thingy. what to do, for the sake of eating cockles, have to do it.

    i love cockles with laksa and char kuey teow. bloody cockle salad thai style is super yummy too!!!

  16. Rasa Malaysia

    Hey Keropak Man,

    Yeah, I had the same shots and can get all shellfish I want.

    What is bloody cockle salad thai style. I have never tried that; sounds interesting. ;)

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