Tatampal, or alupihang dagat, or mantis shrimp. The Chinese also call it “pissing shrimp”.
I was all wired up to go to the grocery and veer away from the processed meat section, buy more than the usual veggies, and get some brown rice. There was something I read somewhere that made me want to seriously eat healthy. I did get to do all that, but the seafood section had a more-than-pleasant surprise: there was a small bed of tatampal for sale.
Tatampal, or alupihang dagat for some, was one of my favorite things to eat growing up. Obando -in Bulacan, where I grew up- was a fishing town, and anything from oysters, crayfish (or ulong), crabs, to the now-rare tatampal, were constant fares for the family. I couldn’t really pinpoint why tatampal reigned over more decadent food -I used to hate oysters as a kid- but about the time I was in college, when we moved out of the flood-prone town, there was no trace of this old favorite anywhere anymore.
The last time I got to savor tatampal was when I still working in China (Shanghai), almost half a decade ago, and they were dry and skinny. Disappointed, I vowed to search for it when I get back home.
That vow was forgotten and/or just held back, until a fateful cab ride where the driver was chatty, and I wasn’t in my default anti-social mode. I was off to the northbound Cubao bus terminals, and he started asking from where I was. The discussion somehow got to food-talk, and I did wax poetic about my favorite edible critters. He said Malolos still had tatampal, and he almost always has some when he’s there. The immediate weekend, I found myself asking around in that big wet market in Malolos, but alas, tatampal was not to be had that day.
So today, I got a kilo. I started with half-a-kilo, but then I got realistic and since they were almost half the size of the usual I had back when I was a kid, and yes I will be buying them not in a palengke, but the seafood section of a grocery, in a mall, I expected compromises.
I’ve never cooked tatampal, but I’m guessing the method didn’t involve more than salt and water.
How was it? The flesh was mushy, and it was only almost semi-solid when it had the orange ‘eggs‘ inside. I stopped at about ten tatampal, disappointed again, but still somewhat happy.