Thai Clam Chowder + Adventures in Thailand

by Jen on August 16, 2012

Thailand is one of my favourite places to travel to for culture and leisure. Whenever I get the chance to visit, food is definitely on the agenda. In fact, food is always at the forefront of many of my Thai adventures!

I’ve been fortunate enough to have set foot in such provinces like Bangkok (actually considered a province), Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket (with Koh Phi Phi), Phang Nga, Krabi, and Surat Thani (Koh Samui and Koh Phangan).

I’ve visited coffee plantations; rode on elephants; gone whitewater rafting; cooked local dishes with a local chef; shared food with indigenous tribes; paddled through a floating market; bargained with potters and weavers; prayed at temples; prayed for my dear life from the back of a tuk-tuk; lit incense in shrines; lit cigarettes on the beach; danced on the beach; enjoyed a Thai massage on the beach; watched muay Thai boxing (you guessed it…on the beach!); clapped for kathoeys (ladyboys) at a pageant; and ate street food until I was (literally) sick.

You see, I have wonderful memories of Thailand – ones that will be hard to come by again in this lifetime. So any time I get that yearning to return to the jungle that is Bangkok or to the paradise of the kohs (islands), I invoke Thai’s essence back in my life. And the easiest way to do that? Through food and flavours. It’s a nice, practical method to bring back the memories.

While today’s recipe is NOT authentic Thai - I pray the deities won’t strike me down for this – it is what I call “cooking with an accent” (I try to avoid the term “fusion”). Sometimes, marrying Western styles with Eastern ingredients works really well. And I can attest to that with this East-meets-West dish!

It’s a New England-style clam chowder with Thai spices…lovely! Make it as fiery or as subtle as you wish, but since I am a spice fiend, you know which route I took! I did save a tamer version for the kids, though.

Lately, we’ve had summer rains here in Toronto, so when it gets damp and chilly in the evenings – especially after our Ultimate frisbee game on Thursday nights – I like to heat up a bowl of comforting chowder. It sure adds instant sunshine (and lovely memories) into my life!


5.0 from 9 reviews
Thai Clam Chowder
Author: 
Recipe Type: Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 to 6
 
Ingredients
  • 2.2 pounds (1 kg, about 20-25 pcs) littleneck clams or pasta clams, washed and scrubbed
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 pound (545 g) white potatoes, peeled and roughly diced
  • ½ cup (40 g) shallots, finely minced and divided
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 large stalk lemongrass, tough outer leaves remove, cut into thin rounds
  • 3 red Thai chilis, finely sliced (optional, but use at least one)
  • 1 2-inch piece of galanga (Thai ginger), unpeeled
  • 6 pieces fresh or frozen Kaffir lime leaves, scored, or strips of peel from one lime
  • ½ cup (125 ml) unsweetened coconut milk + more for thickening (do not stir the milk in the can)
  • a handful of cilantro, finely chopped
  • a few stalks of chives, snipped
  • a few red Thai chilis, finely sliced
Instructions
  1. Heat a pot large enough to hold the clams with your choice of oil. Sauté half the shallots (1/4 cup total), half the garlic (3 cloves), and half the amount of lemongrass over medium-low heat until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Turn heat to high then add water into the pot and bring to a boil.
  3. Once boiling, place the clams in the pot, lower heat to medium, cover, and simmer until their shells open, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  4. Discard any unopened ones. Spoon the cooked clams aside (do not remove meat from shell) in a large bowl. Set all of the broth aside in a separate bowl or measuring cup (so you know how much liquid you have left, ideally, at least 3 cups). Wipe the pot clean for the next use.
  5. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes separately. In another pot, bring salted water to a boil. Make sure the amount of water is just enough to cover the potatoes. Boil the potatoes until soft, about 30 minutes.
  6. While the potatoes are cooking, place the remaining shallots, garlic, lemongrass, and red Thai chilis either in a food processor or mortar and pestle. Grind until a thick paste forms. Add some clam water to thicken, if you wish.
  7. When the potatoes are done, drain, and set aside saving about 1 cup of potato water.
  8. In the clam pot that was wiped clean, heat your choice of oil over high heat. When hot, lower heat to medium and add the spice paste you just made and stir. Add the galanga (Thai ginger) and lime leaves, still stirring continuously to prevent the paste from burning.
  9. Lower heat to medium-low and add to the spice paste a splash or two of the coconut cream that floats on top of the can. Keep stirring.
  10. Add the potatoes, clam broth, and coconut milk, and simmer over medium heat for about 5 to 6 minutes.
  11. Using a hand blender or food processor, purée into a soup. To thicken soup, add more coconut milk. To thin it out, add the potato water.
  12. Garnish the soup with clams. Sprinkle with cilantro, chives, and chili.

 

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{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

hui August 16, 2012 at 2:30 pm

your pics are really WOW! those splashes of fiery chili oil makes my mouth water! i can imagine how good this tastes ^^

Reply

Rowena @ Apron and Sneakers August 16, 2012 at 2:31 pm

I don’t have any complaints about East meets West here. That clam chowder sure is inviting me to hop over to your side of the world and enjoy a bowl. Yum! I have to agree with you. Thailand is one of those countries that hold you well with their cuisine. My experiences are not as extensive and adventurous as yours but I’m happy that I met and got to know that part of Asia too!

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Laura (Tutti Dolci) August 16, 2012 at 5:17 pm

What a perfect fusion dish! That’s the prettiest bowl of chowder I’ve ever seen. I haven’t made it to Thailand yet, but I love Thai flavors so this sounds fabulous!

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Liren August 16, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Sigh, I have yet to visit Thailand. Even my husband beat me to the punch, but he can’t wait to return, with me by his side. One day. But you know by now that I loooove Thai cuisine, and I just love how you married East and West here! Stunning, Jen!

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Mom-Friday August 17, 2012 at 12:06 am

I’m a sucker for clam chowders! And I wish I can have those big succulent New England clams you have there!
Nice bowls and table!!! :)

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Sandra's Easy Cooking August 17, 2012 at 12:19 am

Oh what an experience…I just love your stories. I always feel like I am there with you! Haha great new term East-meets-West dish…your dish today look amazing, great styling, fantastic recipe and stunning pics. I am loving your new table too :))
Have a wonderful weekend ahead!!!!

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Suzanne August 17, 2012 at 3:55 am

This is so beautiful Jen! I just bought my first clams today on our way home from vacay in Fl. Planning to try my hand at cooking them tomorrow, fingers crossed that they turn out and maybe I can post the recipe. Thanks for always inspiring me here.

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suzanne Perazzini August 17, 2012 at 6:34 am

That chowder would hit the spot in our current cold weather. I love Thai food too but have only spent a short time there on our way to Cambodia. We must return and I would love to do a cooking course there.

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Tina Ong (@PhenomenalMama) August 17, 2012 at 9:56 am

I have never been to Thailand, but Thai food is one of my favorite regional cuisine to eat.:) I’ve always been intimidated with the unfamiliar ingredients so I have never tried cooking them.

Your photos make me want to reach in the screen.:)

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Patty August 17, 2012 at 10:27 am

I would just like to say that New England clam chowder never had it so good! Just a stunning recipe with photos;-)

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Choc Chip Uru August 17, 2012 at 4:24 pm

That chowder looks perfectly for the August winds which are roaring away my friend! And thank you for sharing such a delicious trip :D

Cheers
Choc Chip Uru

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Nancy/SpicieFoodie August 17, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Oh Jen, I’m in heaven right now! What a scrumptious soup- I need it now:) As always your photos are gorgeous. Have a great weekend.

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Jen @ Savory Simple August 17, 2012 at 9:39 pm

This looks so incredible! Gorgeous photos as well, must pin and share!

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Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella August 17, 2012 at 10:02 pm

Oh you’ve brought back so many lovely memories of Thailand in this post Jen! :D

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Nami | Just One Cookbook August 17, 2012 at 11:05 pm

You know how much I love your photos in EVERY post, but I think these photos completely exceeded all of your pictures. Maybe I’m biased because I love this shade of blue and clam chowder and Thai flavor and creamy white color and the orange color against blue… Every aspect of the photos is something I love. Like coincidence! I want to take this picture and frame it. I’m not kidding Jen! ;-)

My brother lives in Koh Tao – tiny island where you get to visit with a boat from Koh Samui. I have only been to Phuket for friends wedding, yet I didn’t get to know enough about real Thai food as I was staying in resort and didn’t get out much. I’m saving this recipe to try – we all love clam chowder and Thai food is my favorite!! Ah I love this post so much – I don’t want to leave! LOL!

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Eha August 17, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Am smiling also :) ! For the opposite reason to that of many of your readers!! Living in Oz, I have [very gratefully] also experienced most of your Thai adventures, food & otherwise, but clam chowder is something we rarely think about here :D ! Or at least I have come up against it only a few times in my life! So shall definitely try this fusion [sorry!] dish and am certain the taste buds will tingle!!!

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Debs @ The Spanish Wok August 18, 2012 at 4:48 am

Authentic or not, who cares? The pics are stunning and the recipe sounds so delicious, have pinned for another day.

You are welcome to join in my monthly food blogger event THE SOUP KITCHEN, here for entry details and current theme. New theme each month. All bloggers are welcome, hope to see you participate soon.

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Valerie August 18, 2012 at 9:28 am

And isn’t wonderful the way food (and music) can evoke memories more than anything else?! Reading about your experiences in Thailand makes me want to visit even more!

This Thai chowder is beautiful. If only I could grab a bowl right through the screen. (Gorgeous bowls too!) :)

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Jean | Lemons and Anchovies August 18, 2012 at 11:31 am

Thailand is one our bucket list and I’m hoping it will happen sooner rather than later. We missed an opportunity a few years ago and have regretted it since. You’ve renewed the desire to visit and in a very strong way.

Fusion or accent, love what you’ve done here. Brilliant, Jen!

Love the table, too. :)

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Lisa (AuthenticSuburbanGourmet) August 18, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I adore thai food, especially a really great bowl of Pho. Your clam chowder looks amazing and my hubby would eat every last drop. Loving your photos and the contrast of colors! Happy Saturday!!!

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mycookinghut August 18, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Beautiful images! I haven’t been to any of the islands in Thailand which I’d love to one day!

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fabiola@notjustbaked August 18, 2012 at 4:53 pm

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love this dish and the photos. I love everything about it and I am going to have to make this!

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Lora @cakeduchess August 18, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Gorgeous, Jen! Your soup is spicy and wonderful touch of Thai. Thai food is one of our favorites (even my kids). I loved reading about your visits to Thailand:)

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Raymund August 19, 2012 at 6:04 am

Wow a chowder with an Asian twist! count me in its two of my favourites combined together.

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Emily @ Life on Food August 19, 2012 at 6:33 am

Oh this looks great. I am from Maine so I am feel a bit of an expert on clam chowder. I am always in for a change up though. My brother lived in Laos for 3 years, he loved it there and visiting Thailand for all of the reasons you mentioned.

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Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts August 19, 2012 at 10:41 am

I have never been to Thailand, and am not sure it will ever happen, but I love Thai flavors. Too bad I am not a big fan of clam chowder, because my husband would kill for this! Might have to make it for him anyway :)

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kyleen August 19, 2012 at 11:21 pm

This clam chowder looks amazing! I’m not a big fan of clams, but your photos convinced me otherwise.

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Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious August 21, 2012 at 1:05 am

This might be the most stunning soup I have ever seen in my life!

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Maureen | Orgasmic Chef August 21, 2012 at 4:24 am

I’m from Maine in New England and we never had a clam chowder that looked that good! :)

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Beth August 21, 2012 at 8:05 am

What a dream vacation! I’ve never been to Thailand but would love to get there someday. In the meantime, this chowder looks terrific.

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Marina {YummyMummyKitchen.com} August 22, 2012 at 1:17 am

This is over the top amazing and gorgeous in every way. I would love a bowl of this for dinner any day. And your table backdrop is so beautiful.

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wok with ray August 23, 2012 at 1:35 pm

What a very stunning photography, Jen! Deliciously shot! :)

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Magic of Spice August 23, 2012 at 8:11 pm

What a beautiful recipe! (I was about to say fusion, lol) But, simply a wonderful marriage of flavors, what ever it may be called! Fantastic and creative dish!

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mjskit August 24, 2012 at 11:14 am

This has got to be the most beautiful clam chowder I’ve ever seen! It’s “almost” too beautiful to eat; however, after reading through the recipe, I’d definitely be eating this!!!!

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Maggie August 30, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Gorgeous photographs! What type of camera do you use?

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angryasainman April 4, 2013 at 3:35 am

what the heck?

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Jenn May 5, 2014 at 2:02 pm

I just made this. Its waiting happily for my boyfriend to get home from work tonight. He’s a big seafood chowder fan so I added lobster, salmon and scallops to the dish as well. I taste-tested the broth as I was making it and I think its great and can’t wait to eat it tonight. The lemon grass and heat from the chilis work so well together :)

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catfish October 1, 2014 at 10:12 pm

This recipe looks amazing!

I do, however, have an access issue, and I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions —

I live DEEP in the rural US Midwest. I can get canned clams and bottled clam juice at the grocery store, but fresh shelled clams are totally out of the question. How many ounces of canned clams and how many (8 oz.) bottles of clam juice should I use in lieu of fresh clams and water?

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Jen November 24, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Hi, if you have access to frozen clams as well, that would work. Were you able to try the recipe?

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