About Manila clams

The term “Manila clams” has had me intrigued for a long time. According to my reading, they are exported by Japan and the clams themselves are native to Japan. If that were so, why are they called Manila clams?

I don’t like getting political about food but I distinctly remember that sometime during the infamous 20-year rule of Ferdinand Marcos, he issued a Presidential Decree that allowed Japanese companies to fish in the internal waters of the Philippines. And I wondered if, originally, what came to be known as Manila clams were indeed from the Philippines. Did the Japanese fishing companies harvest them here, brought them to Japan from where they were exported to Europe and United States? Did they eventually decide to breed these clams in their waters so that, years later, the Western world got the impression that these clams were native to Japan?

I wish I had the answers to those questions, heaven knows I spent two days searching but I’m still in limbo. And, truth be told, with so many varieties of edible clams and some looking similar to others (I can only sigh with regret at how little information there is about the many varieties of local clams), if you take me to the market and ask me which are Manila clams, I can only tell you that they aren’t the ones with green shells.

On a trip to the market last week, I chanced upon mounds and mounds of live clams. The clams in one mound had dark green shells (oh, please don’t say that only mussels have green shells) and were selling for thirty pesos per kilo. The clams in another mound had ridged beige shells (Manila clams?) and they were selling for sixty pesos a kilo. I asked the vendor what the difference was. She said the clams with green shells were freshwater clams, which needed a lot of soaking to expel the soil, while those with beige shells were saltwater clams which were ready to cook with no need to soak.

casaveneracion.com Philippine clams

I bought a kilo of each and realized that the vendor was wrong. Both needed soaking. The saltwater clams were tastier though. And just what did I do with them? I made a soup. With sotanghon. And the freshwater clams? Clam chowder.


  1. Lori says

    Share ko lang Ms. Connie, here in Laguna we call those: “tulya” (freshwater clam from Laguna de Bay) and “halaan” (the saltwater clam). We just pour boiling water (blanch?)over the tulya and remove the water after 30 seconds, we call it “Sinubok” tapos sawsaw lang sa suka with bawang. As for the halaan, I only cook it one way, hehe the easiest way, here we call that “Sinu-am”, ginisa lang sa ginger, garlic, and onion, then pour “hugas bigas” plus the halaan and malunggay or sili leaves. Sarap ng sabaw!

  2. Cynthia says

    The brown/dark green ones are “tulya.”

    The ones in the lower picture are Manila clams (scientific name ruditapes philippinarum) and often misspelled “Manilla clams” here in the US. They are shipped from Washington state. I believe they did come from the Philippines during the 30s or 40s.

  3. melisa says

    Having read this, I tried to search din po about manila clams. Pero wala rin akong nahanap. Ito lang nakita ko:

    “these tasty bivalves were named as such by a one-armed Catalan seafarer named Antonio Fernandez y Manilao, who in 1567 together with two local guides discovered the clams thriving in great quantities in the warm waters of the western coast along Northern Luzon. The letter “o” at the end of the original name was later dropped because the natives had an easier time pronouncing Manila clam (as opposed to Manilao clam). Manila clam became an important commodity included in the galleon trade with Mexico and eventually found its way to the European market where it gained fame and world-renowned status, so much so that a city near the Pasig River was named after it in the late 1500s.”

    and according to wikipedia Manila Clams are also called Filipino Venus and their scientific name is Venerupis philippinarum…

  4. d0d0ng says

    I prefer Manila clams compared to mussels. They are tastier than the mussels(usually New Zealand variety in our market) .

    My cooking version is with lemon grass, onions and tomatoes. If I ran out of Manila clams, then I go with the green mussels. This time I mix with few Tiger shrimps to get closer to the sweetness of Manila clams.

    I always like lemon grass, if not available I can use ginger.

    This is really really good around this time when it is truly cold over here.