Citizens – sometimes it’s the simple recipes that are the ones that stay with you the strongest. This recipe is a perfect example of that philosophy!
I first had this dish at Lantau Island in Hong Kong, in one of the “wet markets” where you buy live seafood at one outdoor stall, then take it to another one where they will cook it for you! I bought live clams, and then had this remarkable Cantonese classic dish served to me a few minutes later!
Redolent of fermented black beans and rich in umami flavors, the glutamic acid found in the clams acts as a sort of natural MSG, resulting in an explosion of flavors across your palate!
This is a rather simple recipe, which I have (of course) enhanced with a range of additional flavors to make this assuredly the finest version of the classic recipe you will find, Citizens! 🙂
Battle on – The Generalissimo
18 to 20 littleneck clams (about 2 ½ pounds) or use a similar amount of manila clams
1 tablespoon corn oil
2 tsp minced shallots
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tbsp fermented black soybeans (aka douchi 豆豉)
1 tbsp shredded peeled ginger
4 scallions, shredded
1 Tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 red jalapeno or fresno chili, deseeded and thinly sliced into rings
Several springs of cilantro, for garnish
½ cup clam steaming liquid
3 tsp oyster sauce
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp light (regular) soy sauce
½ tsp dark soy sauce
white pepper, to taste
1 tsp sesame oil, optional – Kadoya brand preferred
1 tsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp water or unsalted chicken stock
Wash and clean clams. Soak them in water for about 1 hour, then drain. Heat 2 quarts of water to a boil and add half the clams. As soon as each opens, remove it; then add the remaining clams and repeat the process.
Don’t ever cook the clams too long while blanching, as they have to be stir fried later on and you don’t want the meat turn rubbery. Discard any unopened clams because they are dead already.
Pour cooking liquid into a container and let sand settle to the bottom. Measure out ½ cup of liquid for making sauce. Combine all sauce ingredients in bowl and reserve.
Rinse the fermented black soybeans and drain well. Use a large spoon to press them into a paste. You might like to reserve some in whole shape to enhance the presentation.
Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Sauté the shallot, garlic, fermented black beans, ginger and half of the spring onion, until aromatic.
Toss the clams into the wok. Increase heat to high and stir-fry until aromatic. Sprinkle wine around the edge of wok. Add the sauce and red chili.
Quickly stir to combine. Cook for a few seconds. Add the rest of spring onion. Stir in the thickening and cook to preferred consistency. Garnish with cilantro. Serve immediately.