Filipino seafood

Cheesy Buttered Broiled Mussels (Tahong)

Wednesday, February 05, 2014Enz F

Being surrounded with vast bodies of waters and oceans, my country is well-blessed with a multitude of variety of sea creatures. Being one of the lucky inhabitants of these 7000-plus islands, I get to have easy access to these abundant and fresh supplies of edible clams and shellfish which mostly are just scattered along the intertidal zone of our coastal areas. 

Buttered mussel is a popular appetizer that goes well with crackers or bread.
The Asian Green Mussels (Perna Viridis), locally known as Philippine Green Mussels or Tahong are just among the many invertebrates under the Phylum Mollusca. They belong to the marine family Mytilidae, most of which are known to exist in bays, coves and inlets, and live on exposed shorelines, attached by means of their strong byssus or beard to a firm substrate. In the Philippines, mussels are harvested as food source because of their fast growth which are commonly found in Manila bay, east coast of Panay, Negros Occidental southwest coast, and in Maqueda Bay and Jiabong in Samar Province. In fact, mussel aquaculture and cultivation is being practised in many parts of the country using a variety of farming methods. Aside from being a good source of livelihood, these edible bivalves are also rich in vitamins, minerals, protein and carbohydrate. 

The butter-cheese-mussel combination is always something to drool for.
Tahong is a versatile seafood choice served on any occasion in the Philippines. You can either cook it as an appetizer or main course, depending on how you prefer it to be. Whenever my friends and I would go to dampa (eateries, very common in Metro Manila, known to cook and serve their guests fresh seafoods straight from the wet market), tahong is always on the top of our wish list (or at least on the top three along with tuna belly and alimango or crab). Tinolang tahong (ginger stewed mussels) is no doubt an all time favorite that is always served in every Filipino household, but my friends and I were attached with interconnected cranial nerves that are unfailingly in perfect unanimity for always picking Buttered Tahong as the main entrée. It does not matter whether we choose to have it baked or broiled but just the idea of butter-cheese-mussel combination is always something to drool for. The grilled or broiled version allows the mussels to release their juice making them more moist and succulent. 

Indeed, there are a number of dishes that could be made using tahong and the Philippine cuisine alone would give you endless possibilities. From appetizers to main dishes, crème or soup-based, sweet or tangy, spicy or otherwise – you cannot easily get to the bottom of the list, not even halfway.

Cheesy Buttered Broiled Mussels (Tahong) 
Number of Servings: 2 to 3 

  • 1 lb. fresh tahong (mussels) 
  • 3 cups water for boiling 
  • 1 inch ginger, chopped 
  • ½ cup butter, softened 
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese, grated 
  • 3 tbsps. fresh parsley, minced 

  1. Clean the mussels. Place the mussels in a washbasin or big bowl of cold water. Cover for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Soaking the mussels will let them expel out their dirt and sand. One by one, pull off the beards and rinse under running water. Discard any mussels with chipped shells or that are not completely closed. 
  2. In a medium pot, boil about 3 cups of clean water and ginger. Add the mussels and simmer over high heat for 5 minutes or until the mussels slightly open. 
  3. Drain the mussels and let them cool. Set aside the broth for other use. Twist off and remove the half shells, leaving the meat intact in the other half. 
  4. In a small bowl, mash the butter, grated cheese and parsley with fork. Spoon about a teaspoon of mixture on top of mussels and arrange them in a broiler tray. 
  5. Preheat the broiler to 300ºF and broil the mussels for 3 to 5 minutes or until the butter-cheese is bubbling hot. 
  6. Serve hot as an appetizer with crackers or bread. Enjoy! 

  1. I prefer mine to mix the softened butter (not melted) with cheese as I want to obtain a uniform and well-blended taste. I also do not melt the butter as it could easily burn in the broiler. Another option is to slather the melted butter on using a pastry brush, sprinkle with grated cheese and parsley, then chill the mussels in the fridge for a few minutes or until the butter is hard before putting them in the broiler. 
  2. You may substitute butter with margarine or with olive oil, depending on your taste. 
  3. Make sure to get only the fresh live mussels from a reputable dealer. An unopened shell after boiling is an indication that the mussel is already dead even before cooking. It is safe to discard the unopened mussels as you are not sure as to how long it is dead. Also, make sure that the mussels and shellfish that you are going to buy (or any seafood for that matter) are tested negative for red tide and other contaminants. Red tide contaminated shellfish is highly toxic if ingested by humans.

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