Malaysian Black Pepper Clams

(I’m copy/pasting this entire email from Mal Daly into the files, both for historical context and also because I’m on deadline and don’t have time to scrub. I will make this with mussels when I do.—AW)

When I was in Singapore, I got a hot tip from a hotel concierge about a great local restaurant, after much arm-twisting to not send me to a tourist spot. It turned out that her grandfather owned a popular Malaysian diner that was off the beaten path and outside the city. Though there wasn’t a lot of English spoken there, as always, the love of food was the understood language. That day, I tasted lots of traditional Malaysian dishes, including this one, which they made with crab instead of clams. However, the sweetness of clams with this sauce is an undeniably fantastic combination. A big bowl of these clams, the broth, some crusty bread for dipping and a salad make the perfect meal with very little mess to clean up afterwards. Whenever we rotate the menu at Street, we try to take this recipe off and it practically causes a riot.

Serves 4
2-1/2 pounds Manila clams
1/4 cup grated coconut palm sugar or packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
Juice of 1-1/2 limes
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick)unsalted butter
10 fresh mint leaves
1/2cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup fresh Thai basil leaves (see page 109) or regular basil leaves
Sourdough bread, sliced1 inch thick and toasted, for serving
Extra virgin olive oil, for serving
Lime wedges

1. Put the clams in a large bowl and rinse them under cold running water for 5 to 10 minutes to purge them of all sand and grit. Drain.
2. In a small bowl, combine the coconut palm sugar, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and lime juice.
3. Heat the canola oil in a large sauté pan or skillet set over high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, to release the flavors, but do not let the garlic brown. Add the black pepper and the clams. Add 1/3 cup water, cover immediately, and steam the clams for 3 to 4 minutes or until they open. Remove any that do not open. Add the oyster sauce mixture and stir well. Add the butter, stir well, and pour the clams into a large bowl.
4. Sprinkle the mint, cilantro, and Thai basil over the clams. Serve with the toasted bread, brushed with the olive oil, if desired, and wedges of fresh lime.

I had a friend over who didn’t eat clams so I tossed some chunks of cod in flour with S&P, sauteed them off then finished them in some of the broth the poached form the clams. Mmmmmm. This one swings both ways. Lots of fresh ground black pepper was the key. This menu doesn’t say to do it but serve them over Rice Pad Thai noodles for and entrée version.


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