Trochus niloticus

Other names: Button shell, periwinkle, top shell.

Family: Trochidae (top shells).


These rough, conical, pointed shells (resembling a witch’s hat) are found around the northern coast, from Karratha to Mackay, on exposed intertidal and subtidal areas of coral reefs. They are harvested from the wild in WA and Qld by collectors walking along reef tops at low tide or free diving. It is a type of periwinkle and, like other members of this group, has an operculum, the protective flap covering the opening. Traditionally they were harvested for their shells which have a pearly inner surface used to make buttons and ornaments.

Season: Available year round, though supply is limited.

Size and Weight: Commonly 8-12cm maximum shell diameter, though can grow to 16cm.

Price: Low priced.


Trochus is the most commonly seen member of the Trochidae family, though other smaller species are found in Australian waters. Bailer, periwinkle, tulip shell, tun shell and other gastropods.

To Buy:

Sold live. Look for brightly coloured, intact, lustrous shells, firm flesh that retracts when touched (showing that it’s still alive), and a pleasant fresh sea smell.

To Store:

Live molluscs should be consumed as soon as possible after purchase. Place in a container, cover with damp paper or cloth and keep in the warmest part of the refrigerator, usually the crisper (optimum 5?C), ensuring that the covering remains damp.

To Cook:

Average yield is 35%. Has a mildly salty flavour, low oiliness and firm flesh.

Cooking Methods:

Boil or steam shells for about 10 minutes, until the meat can be extracted using a fork, pin or special pick. Cooked meat can be sliced and served with a dressing or in salads, while partially-cooked meat can be deep-fried, pan-fried, stir-fried, baked, braised, grilled, barbecued, smoked or pickled. The firm flesh holds together well in soups, curries and casseroles and they are occasionally eaten raw.

Goes well with:

Bacon, butter, chilli, coriander, fennel, garlic, herbs, lemon, lime, mayonnaise, olive oil, onion, parsley, pepper, Pernod, tomato, vinegar, white wine.




Imported from south-east Asia.