Baked tahong (mussels) baked tahong (mussels) with olive oil and fresh garlicMy favorite shellfish but only next to oysters, mussels or tahong, are so versatile they can be steam for an appetizer, cooked as a simple but very flavorful soup or cooked as a main dish. Grilled over live coals, they are popular as a pulutan for beer drinkers.

I bought half a kilo of mussels the other day and thought I’d make some baked tahong–something I haven’t done in quite a while. I debated over how I would make them. Would I do it with the usual cheese topping or would I do it the way my father did one time long ago? I decided on the latter. With something as flavorful as mussels, less is more.

I’m not very sure about the origin of this recipe. It is definitely not Filipino because olive oil is drizzled over the mussels on the half shell before they are baked.

Ingredients :

1/2 kilo of large mussels
about 1 tbsp. of finely chopped garlic
some olive oil
sea salt

Cooking procedure :

Wash and scrub the mussel shells well. Place in a large bowl and cover with water. Let sit in the fridge for several hours to expel sand. Change the water every two hours or so. That’s SOP when cooking with shellfish. Unless you allow them enough time to expel sand, well… the sand will be inside the shell when you cook them. If you’re making soup, the mussels will expel sand during cooking and the sand will be all over the broth. Besides, since you want the mussels to be partially open to allow you to break off the half shell, you will really need to let them soak in water for some time.

After about 6 hours, the mussels would be partially open. Pull out the “beard” and pry the shell open. Scrape the meat on one side of the shell. Break off the empty half shell and discard. Do the same with the rest of the mussels.

Arrange the mussels on a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle a little sea salt over them. Top each with a pinch of freshly chopped garlic. Drizzle olive oil over the mussels. Bake in a fairly hot oven, about 170oC, for 4-5 minutes.

Serve at once with kalamansi halves or lemon slices on the side.