How To Cook Balay Shells or Ugpan

How To Cook Balay Shells or Ugpan

I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Balay Shells or Ugpan but I’ve seen them for time to time being sold at the local wet market near our place. I don’t remember this shellfish served at home but now that I regularly go to the market my curiosity is piqued! I actually made a mental note to try out all the seafood/shellfish/fish that I haven’t tried before and to see how they taste.

And I’m starting with this: Balay Shells or Ugpan. I think this is called Tongue Shells in English and it’s fairly cheap. We got 300g of Ugpan for ₱30 which is a lot and it could serve 3-4 persons.

How To Cook Balay Shells or Ugpan
uncooked Balay Shells or Ugpan

This is what uncooked Balay Shells looks like. It has that black-thingy at the end of it’s “tongue” (or whatever you call it). You have to trim it off before cooking so that you can coax the meat from it later on.

Since I didn’t know how to cook it, peanutbutter and I asked the vendor how the cook it. He told us it’s scrumptious when cooked like Totcho. So it was  sauteed in tahure (fermented tofu), onion, tomato, garlic, and ginger. Unlike mussels and clams, this shellfish doesn’t open even when cooked. You have to open it yourself to get the meat inside the shell.

I like the white meat that comes out of it’s tongue but I find the meat inside too rubbery for my taste. I still prefer oysters, mussels, and clams but it’s great that I got to try it.

Watch The Video Here:

How To Cook Balay Shells or Ugpan
a closer look

How To Cook Balay Shells or Ugpan

  • Author: Peachy Adarne


  • 300g Balay Shells or Ugpan, cleaned and trimmed of the end part of their “tongue” (or whatever you call them)
  • 1 pc tahure (fermented tofu)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small knob of ginger, sliced
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • ⅓ cup water
  • ¼ cup tausi (black beans)
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • patis to taste


  1. In a small bowl, Mash tahure, add vinegar and water.Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a pan, sauté garlic, then add ginger, onions, and tomatoes.
  3. Sauté until onions are translucent then add Balay Shells or Ugpan.
  4. Pour in tahure mixture and tausi. Mix well.
  5. Bring it to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  6. Season with patis to taste
  7. Turn off heat and serve with steamed rice.

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27 Responses

  1. You know Peach, at first I thought there were mussels and enoki mushrooms. My goodness, I’ve never seen this before. It’s interesting. 🙂

  2. That soup looks delish! I haven’t seen this kind of shellfish before – I’ll make sure to keep an eye out for them because I’d like to taste them, too! 😀

    K of

  3. I remembered getting those UGPAN along the seashore of my grandfather’s hometown in Pawa,Tabaco City,Albay.
    There were tiny holes like eyes in the sand then my lolo will use his shovel to dig it then we were excited picking them up.We washed it at the beach after we got almost 1kl.My lolo will remove the black tip at the end because its not edible.The white root we ate it raw or much delicious with kalamansi and KUYOG(fermented small brown fish) with siling labuyo.While my lolo prepared these he dipped the shells in water to remove some of its sands inside.(in tagalog,pinapasuka).After 30mins.he will saute onion,garlic and ginger then add the ugpan shells then finish it with coconut cream.Simply and soo delicious.I miss it much in our place.

    1. Out of the blue I thought of balay. I remember my mom cooking them several decades ago. Me and my sister loved the meat inside the “plastic ” tail. I assumed they went extinct coz they are nowhere to be found. People give me that doubtful look when I describe that wonderful “seashell with a plastic tail.” We’re flying home to Manila in a month and definitely look for them. Possibly go to where you are and hoping to taste them again.

    2. We used to eat the “tongue” raw too, like kinilaw. And the shells, we used to makemas soip, similar to sinabawang imbao. Do not overcook or it gets rubbery.

  4. It has been 3 years since i’ve last cooked balay… went to obando bulacan market yesterday and suprised to see some because they are kinda rare nowadays, so I bought some, aside from cutting off the tail end i also brush the blackish things on the shell, yung nasa tip ng mought niya, they easily come off with a hard brush (a laundry brush to be exact, lol). I kinda forgot how to cook it so I went online and found this page, which was a relief… i’m half bicolano so naturally i made mine spicy hehe.
    thank you very much..

  5. Hi! Where did you buy Ugpan? My mother is looking for it for a long time now and I want to help her. Please help me/us. Thank you!!

  6. Bago ito sa paningin ko momsh, di pa din ako nakatikim nito. Mukhang masarap din mahilig din kasi ako sa sea shells. Masubukan nga ito?

  7. Parang di pa ako nakakita nang ganto.. LOOks like tahong din siya pero iba.. You’re so amazing mamsh dahil yoi always showed us diff kind of dishes and. Unique recipes..

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Hi, Peachy here!

I'm a foodie mommy living in the Philippines. I'm a mom to two daughters named PURPLE SKYE and PERIWINKLE MOONE and wife to a loving husband I fondly call peanutbutter♥. I am a foodie by heart, a coffee lover and a froyo and yogurt junkie. Learn more →






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