Sake Soy Manila Clams
~Chef Perry Perkins~
Manila clams, also known as Japanese littleneck, steamers, Filipino Venus, Japanese cockle, and Japanese carpet shells, are found from British Columbia to Northern California, but that's not their original habitat. Manila clams were introduced by mistake in Washington state waters in the late 1920s, hitching a ride in barrels of oyster seed from Japan.
Sustainably—farmed in the Pacific Northwest, mostly in my home state of Washington, and up in British Columbia. Unlike other forms of seafood farming, clams have little negative "environmental footprint", being pen-hatched, and then raised in the cold, wild waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Of all clams in the kitchen, Manilas are the sweetest (and smallest) hard-shell clams you're likely to cook. Packed with flavor they're one of my favorite bivalves, second only to fresh oysters. Manila clams can grow to eight inches across (7-10 years), but most that are used of steaming are 3-4 years old and are usually less than three inches.
Here, the clams are steamed with sake, soy, ginger, chilies, and sugar, then tossed in a butter-broth reduction. These are, handsdown, the best Manila clams I’ve ever eaten!
1 cup sake 1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar 1 Tbs. ginger powder
1-2 Tbs. garlic-chili sauce (to taste) 2 pounds Manila clams, scrubbed
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed Salt
Preheat your Roasting Box & Smoker
Preheat your Caja China with 8lbs of charcoal. Once coals are evenly gray (20-25 minutes) spread the charcoal evenly over the tray. Careful move tray to the handles and place the clams (on the roasting rack) into the box with the small pan of butter, and your pre-lit A-MAZE-N (AMNPS) Smoker.
Remove the two end-rails from your roasting box for airflow (this creates a ¼ inch gap at either end) and set the smoker on a corner of the sheet pan (allowing for airflow beneath.
I use a mix of apple and alder wood pellets, filling the channels of the AMNPS about 2/3 of the way up…light the pellets with a torch, though a small hole in the end of the smoker.
Once the pellets are burning, blow out any open flame, and set in the box.
Re- cover box with the ash pan. Cooking time starts right now (write down time).
In a large disposable steam pan, combine the sake, soy sauce, sugar, ginger powder, and chile sauce. Bring just to a boil, whisking to dissolve the sugar.
Add the clams, close lid and cook, opening and shaking the pan after the clams open, (about 5 minutes) to get the marinade into the shells. Let rest, lid askew, for 2-3 minutes, then, using a slotted spoon, transfer the clams to a large bowl; discard any clams that do not open
Add a dash or two of salt, then pour the butter over the clams, toss to combine, sprinkle with diced green onions, and serve immediately with toasted French bread and ice-cold sake.
NOTE: I make a larger batch of sauce than the original recipe, as I like to mix the leftover sauce 50/50 with hot water and make a killer clam risotto with it.
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~ Chef Perry
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