Manila clams are the sweetest and probably the smallest hard-shell clams you will find in the market, making them the favorite of many professional chefs. Manila clams need only about 3-5 minutes to steam open.
Manila clams are widely farmed in the Pacific Northwest, mostly in Washington State and British Columbia. Unlike some kinds of fish farming, clam farming poses little threat to the environment because these tasty bivalves are hatched in pens and then live their lives in the wild.
From a cooking standpoint, most Manila clams are steamed. You can certainly eat them on the half shell, but few people do for no real reason: They taste every bit as sweet as the Eastern quahogs we eat on the half shell, although Manila clams will be less salty.
Manilas are classically used in pasta and soups. If you want to mix them with other seafood, they go well with crab.
Any clams that do not open their shells while cooking are suspect and should be tossed.
This recipe is Cantonese and is wonderful served with steamed jasmine rice on Chinese New Year.
The province of Canton, now officially known as Guangdong, is renowned for its super-fresh, subtly prepared food.
"It's the finest cuisine in China," says New Jersey-based Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, a Chinese cooking authority and author who has been dubbed the Cantonese Julia Child.
2 pounds manila clams, soaked with a tablespoon corn meal, the rinsed twice, scrubbed and rinsed again
2 Tablespoons fermented black beans, soaked in water, drained, mashed
2 Large cloves garlic, crushed, minced
1 Tablespoon peeled, minced ginger
2 Teaspoons black soy sauce
¼ Cup Shaohsing wine
1 Cup Bar Harbor or another good clam juice
3 shallots, chopped finely
1 Teaspoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 Tablespoon oyster sauce
2 Tablespoon corn starch
1 Teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper
2 scallion greens, cut diagonally as garnish
Soak clams in cold water to which has been added a bit of corn meal. The corn meal will cause the clams to open thereby shedding the salt water. Allow to rest un-disturbed so clams open, about ¾ hour. Under cold running water, scrub the outside of the clams with a stiff brush, then rinse twice.
Dissolve cornstarch in 1 tablespoon cold water and retain. Add oil to hot wok or large pre-heated hot cast-iron pan. Add drained clams, and toss with a spoon/chun. Add ginger, and shallots. Toss until clams open.
Add black beans, Shaohsing wine, soy sauce, oyster suace, red pepper, sugar, garlic, rice vinegar. Stir fry a minute or two. Add clam juice, and disolved constarch mixture. Stir and heat until the suace thickens. Taste and then correct seasonings, adding white pepper if needed. Garnish with scallions greens then plate.