Kalinga province, specifically in our hometown Tabuk (oh, I forgot. Tabuk is already a city, wink wink), is not only abundant in fresh and most of the time organic vegetables and fruits, and a diverse variety of rice, but also, it is abundant in freshwater clams and fishes. Kalinga province has a mountainous part and a valley part and geographically, our province is far away from the south China Sea and Philippine Sea, so seafoods are not available in our province 🙂
During market days in our city ( o-ha?) people from the barrios and other nearby town will come down and sell their produces in our wet markets. Produces ranges from vegetables, fruits, freshwater fishes and clams, and some poultries and are sold cheap as compared to those sold in the urban areas. Like, a takal (equivalent to a full can of condensed milk) of freshwater clams are sold may be at P10 or even less than that (less than $0.50) only.
Freshwater clams or freshwater bivalve shells are called bennek in Ilocano. It is usually harvested in riverbanks. I’m proud to say that most of the rivers in our province of Kalinga are not polluted so it’s very safe to eat shells and fishes coming from these bodies of water. Don’t ask me however, as to how these shells are harvested as I don’t know. I just buy them from market mongers and my parents will cook them. My parents also cook bennek as soup seasoned with buggoong (fermented salted fish), patis (fish sauce), or just plain salt. Garlic, onions, and gingers are the usual spices used to add flavor and to take out any slimy taste.
Here is a bennek recipe by Mama Glo:
SINABAWAN NGA BENNEK (FRESHWATER CLAM SOUP)
1. Boil the shells in water. Drain and remove the meat from the shells.
2. Heat oil in a pan and sauté the garlic until it turns almost brown then add the onions, ginger, and tomatoes. Let simmer
3. Add in the clam meat and stir for a minute. Add water and season with fish sauce and salt and ground black pepper. Bring to a boil
4. Remove from fire and add the spinach leaves
Serve as an appetizer or as main dish with steamed rice
© Fresha-licious (02May2012)