In this blog post I will explain how to prepare clams before cooking and how to make them with delicious Thai style red curry sauce.
I used to eat clams once in a while back when I used to live in Indonesia. Mussels were expensive as they’re not in abundance so we’re more familiar with clams rather than mussels. It’s only when I moved to Australia that I started eating mussels and I LOVE them. I’ve been cooking them several times now as you can see in some of my mussels recipes here.
However sometimes I have cravings for clams as well. Especially the ones cooked by my grandma with chilli and soybean sauce (Tauco) similar to this chilli clams recipe from Rasa Malaysia. I cooked this once a few years ago and it was beautiful too. I will do my grandma’s version next time but for now I wanted to try cooking clams with other spicy sauces. I’m gonna cook clams in red curry sauce.
Sometimes it’s hard to find fresh clams in Melbourne. I normally use the frozen ones from Asian groceries when I have cravings for them and they still taste quite good. I love to add them in Korean seafood soup or Japanese miso soup. But if I want to make a dish that features clams as the star, it’s better to get the fresh ones instead. I personally think fresh clams taste better than the frozen one even though they are a bit tedious to prepare.
I prepared fresh clams until all the sands have been removed and then cook them with Thai red curry sauce and coconut milk. It was so delicious as the curry sauce was infused by the flavour of the fresh clams. The two of us had these clams in red curry sauce with a bowl of rice and I first thought that there was gonna be some leftovers but turned out we finished them all at the end.
How to clean and prepare fresh clams?
Don’t be intimidated because it’s not complicated to prepare fresh clams at all. You just need to address two issues – remove all sand from the clams and throw away all bad clams.
To remove sand from the clams, put them in a large wide bowl and add fresh water until all clams are covered. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and soak clams for 20-30 minutes. During this process clams will spit out the sand so it doesn’t end up in your meal. Then get a slotted spoon and start picking up clams to a new clean bowl. Don’t drain all clams into the strainer at once because the sand on the bottom of the bowl will get poured out onto the clams again.
This method was taught by a lady that I used to stay with and she loved cooking clams at home. I have checked around the internet and some sources like The Kitchn and Fine Cooking agree with this method.
Then inspect whether all clams are shut tight. If you find any clams that are open, try to tap them and check if they still stay open as that means they are not fresh and should be discarded. Also throw away clams that have cracked shells.
How to tell if clams are not safe to eat?
After they are cooked, clams that open up or slightly start to open are perfectly safe to eat. Don’t wait until they are spread wide open as they will most likely be overcooked. However if clams are still tightly shut, it’s better to throw them away as there is a chance that they have gone bad and would not be safe to be consumed.
Actually one source said that when clams are not open does not mean that they have gone bad. But I personally think conservatively, you don’t want to take the chance of getting food poisoning. That would be a nightmare.
- 1 kg clams in shell, cleaned
- 100 gr red curry paste
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 stalk chopped lemongrass (white part only)
- 3 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 300 ml coconut milk
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1/2 cup of chopped coriander (for garnish)
- Heat vegetable oil in a large, heavy based pan over medium heat. Saute lemongrass, onion and garlic cloves for 2 minutes or until soft. Add red curry paste and saute for another 1 minute.
- Add coconut milk, brown sugar and fish sauce into the pan and bring it to a boil. Add clams into the pan and cover. Let it cook for 5-7 minutes until clams start to open.
- Remove from heat, add lime juice and coriander. Serve clams with a bowl of rice or crusty bread slices.