Happy Clam on the Half Shell Day! To ring in the occasion, we invited our friend, food writer, and half shell connoisseur, Julie Qiu, to share her top clam experiences from around the world. - Amy
Anyone who has dipped into the cool, salty sea in search of clams knows that they must be dug out when the tide is low. Hence, the phrase, "As happy as a clam at high water." I love all kinds of clams: Littleneck, Cherrystone, Manila, Razor, Geoduck. Technically as an oyster blogger, I am cheating on my bivalve of choice. But on days when I yearn to gnaw on something that's got a bit more gusto, I go for the clam.
There are quite a few differences between oysters and clams actually, for those who are wondering. While they're both in the same class of mollusks that have two half shells held together by hinges, or "bivalves," the oyster's cupped shell is not nearly as symmetrical as the clam's. An oyster will permanently fix itself to one place throughout their entire adult lives whereas the clam freely moves about with its "foot." Being the adventurous one in the family, it's got a tougher texture and more rugged brininess. Nevertheless, they clean up nice. They're also probably one of the most underrated delicacies of the sea, as they're fun to harvest and undeniably delicious in all forms--raw, steamed, grilled, you name it!
That being said, here are some of my favorite ways to have the clam:
Fresh Maine Steamers at Fish House Grill, Maine
Available virtually in all coastal seafood shacks, steamers are an appetizer that I hesitate to share. Fortunately, these are easy to make at home and need no cooking experience. Tip: Grab a couple of cheap beers when you're grocery shopping--one for steaming, another for drinking.
Razor Clam Ceviche at The John Dory Oyster Bar, New York
I'll admit that I enjoyed this crudo better than the oysters here! The tangy lemon-mint marinade and vivid green sauce really complimented this clam. It's perfectly chewy and cut into small chunks that are easy to handle for beginners.
Giant Clam Sushi at Sushi Yasuda, New York
Finding a good giant clam can be exceptionally difficult at restaurants. Keep in mind that Red Clam and Surf Clam are not the same as Giant Clam. Some places will also misname the Geoduck as the "giant clam." And speaking of geoduck...
Geoduck Sashimi at Oyster Station, Hong Kong
The Geoduck, pronounced "Goo-ey Duck," is one awkward creature. Just Google images of it and you'll see what I mean. Surprisingly, the subtle earthy flavors and slow crunch will win anyone over. It's not easy to find in the US, but I spotted it once at Momofuku Ssam Bar
Grilled Littleneck Clam at South Gate, New York
Saving the best for last, my most recent clam experience is probably my favorite. Chef Kerry Heffernan of South Gate Restaurant
brought in some of his own clams that he dug up in Sag Harbor (we were meeting about oysters, funny enough). He gently laid four over a fiery grill and placed a piece of thyme alongside them. Then he quickly removed them off the heat once they started to crack open, gently doused them with butter, and sprinkled some parsley on top. Pure heaven. It's not on the menu (yet), but maybe if he get's enough requests...JQ
About The Writer Julie Qiu is an oyster aficionado and half shell connoisseur. She resides in NYC, but has traveled to six continents to savor her favorite food. She writes for In A Half Shell. Follow her on Foodspotting and Twitter!