This is a deliciously simple preparation of fresh clams, stir-fried in a deep brown sauce of soy sauce and rice wine. The wine steams the clams open while the soy sauce bubbles, thickening and coating the clams with its savory goodness. Some thinly sliced shallots and garlic add another dimension to the flavor, and some chopped fresh red chilies add a bit of a kick.
I learned how to cook this dish from my friend Jane, who has all the credentials of authenticity, having been born in China and cooking for her family since a young age. She has also had the benefit of being well traveled and a great communicator, and studied for her Master’s in Dunedin, New Zealand. I think that she truly has an inventive and open mind when it comes to cooking, reflected in her Chinese food, which draws from Sichuan and Cantonese cuisine as well as her native Fujianese style (and her own imagination!).
I have had the privilege of watching Jane cook several times, and I’ve learned a lot of helpful tips from her – how to cook bitter melon so it’s not too bitter, how to cook Japanese tofu, how to marinate cucumbers to make quick pickles, etc…
I bought these clams at the neighborhood wet market, where they were kept in trays of seawater to keep them alive. I have no idea what kind of clams they are…anyone care to venture a guess?
Serve these little clams as part of a Chinese meal with several other contrasting dishes and steamed white rice.
Jane’s Soy Sauce Clams
Note: When clams are open, they’re done. Don’t overcook or they may turn rubbery.
1 pound small fresh clams, scrubbed
2 shallots, sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce (or 1 1/2 tbsp normal – you can always add more later)
3 tbsp rice wine
¼ tsp granulated chicken powder (optional)
1 red chili pepper, chopped
1 scallion (spring onion), chopped
1. In a wok, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic, and stir-fry until aromatic, being careful not to burn.
2. Add soy sauce – it should start to bubble immediately. Add the clams. Stir around to coat with soy sauce, and then add rice wine and granulated chicken powder (optional). Allow the wine to steam the clams, stirring occasionally, until clams open. Don’t cover the wok – you want most of the liquid to evaporate.
3. Add chopped red chilies. Toss everything together vigorously for 30 seconds to coat clams with sauce. Remove clams to a plate, discarding any that have not opened. Sprinkle with chopped scallions and serve immediately, with steamed white rice.