Clams in Chili-Cilantro Oil
I made this wild clam with chili-cilantro oil dish to celebrate a milestone today – my 6-year-old’s first bike ride on a two-wheeler! It only took us 30 minutes to teach her to ride sans training wheels, and in no time, she was cruising on her own! We are so very proud of her!
Please indulge me a little here. I’ve been having a few “proud mama” moments lately with my eldest child. Like last week, her teacher told us that in order to get to Grade 1 from Senior Kindergarten (where she is now), you’d have to be reading at Level 6, at least. Then he told us that our daughter is actually on Level 21, which is a Grade 2 to Grade 3 reading level. (Insert another proud mama moment smile here). The teacher also brought up the fact that our daughter may be considered for the “gifted program” down the road – an enriched program for students identified as “gifted.”
I really have no expectations whatsoever. Whether she goes into the gifted program or not, I am absolutely proud of her achievements, no matter how big or small! She’s such a good kid, with a kind heart and an endearing spirit. A mother couldn’t be any prouder.
Speaking of a kind heart and endearing spirit, I always see clams as being that way. For those who are curious, clams are bottom-dwelling filter feeders that help keep our bodies of water clean. See that about being kind-hearted?
So, when you buy fresh wild or farmed clams, be sure to soak them in cold tap water first – this encourages the bivalves to expel their dirt. Then scrub their outer shell, one-by-one, to ensure that any sand that clings to their shell are washed off. Nothing kills the appetite more than biting into gritty, sandy clams!
It’s nice to know that clams have low levels of mercury (especially the farmed ones), so one can enjoy them at least once or twice a month. And unlike other types of seafood, they don’t require antibiotics or growth hormones or artificial feed. In fact, clams are almost always sustainably farmed, harvested by hand with a rake-like tool. The only thing to caution for are the “red tide” phenomena, but these are closely monitored by environmental agencies, who release warnings to fisheries / hatcheries and consumers.
Clams are a rich source of iron, even compared to high-iron meat options like liver and beef, according to the David Suzuki Foundation. They are good choices for protein, calcium, zinc, vitamin B, and omega-3‘s. Some Asian cultures consider clams as a galactagogue (helps with milk production for nursing), although there are no official studies to prove this as of yet.
For a wonderfully simple yet delicious meal, follow the recipe below!
- 60 ml (1/4 cup or 2 oz) any neutral vegetable oil like grapeseed or canola + more for cooking
- a large handful of cilantro leaves, chopped
- 3 to 4 pieces small red Thai chillies, deseeded and thinly sliced
- a pinch of salt
- 900 grams (2 pounds) farmed or wild clams
- 5 slices on one-inch long sliced fresh ginger
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 250 ml (1 cup or 8 oz) Japanese sake or any dry white wine
- 250 ml (1 cup or 8 oz) water
- ½ teaspoon of shichimi togarashi (a 7-spice Japanese chilli powder)
- Prepare the chili-cilantro oil in advance so it has time to steep. In a small sauce pan, heat about ¼ cup of oil (or more, if you wish) until it is hot.
- Mix cilantro, red chillies, and salt in a heatproof vessel, then pour the hot oil in, giving it a quick whisk to finish. Let sit for 2 hours at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator.
- Meanwhile, prepare clams for cleaning. Tap open shells on any hard surface and discard those that don't shut - those are dead. Clean clams by soaking them in cold water for a few hours, then scrub and remove them one by one. Set aside in a large bowl.
- Heat some cooking oil in a heavy bottom pot over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the ginger slices, garlic, and shallot, then fry for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant.
- Pour in sake or white wine, followed by the water, and bring to a full boil. Add the clams and stir for a few times. Close pot lid and let cook for 7 to 12 minutes, or until all or most of the shells are opened.
- Discard unopened clams and set cooked clams on a serving dish.
- Drizzle the reserved chili-cilantro oil on clams. It is best when this oil is still warm, so warm it up in a saucepan before drizzling.
- Sprinkle with shichimi togarashi.