In India, clams have many names—five, the last time I counted—and come in varying shapes, sizes, and colors. I’ve always found that compared to other fish and shellfish, clams are rather mild in flavor, with a gentle sweetness, light bitterness, and just a touch of oceany aroma. They’re a great way to get into seafood stews and curries if you aren’t quite ready to take the plunge into fish; this stew, made with chilies, ginger, turmeric, tomatoes, and coconut, is a particularly good way to enjoy them.
Depending on where you get your clams, the most time-consuming part of this dish can be cleaning them. Since they’re filter feeders, they tend to come with a lot of grit. Some fishmongers will purge their clams before selling them, getting rid of most of the sandy dirt trapped inside. The easiest way I’ve discovered to get rid of it at home is to boil them covered by about 2 inches of water, shuck them, and then rinse the meat off in the liquid. Once you’ve cleaned and shucked them all, take the liquid off the heat so that the sand settles to the bottom. You can then pour off the flavorful liquid from the top and reduce it as necessary.
If you’re wondering what to do for dinner but don’t want the hassle of a big elaborate meal? This Anglo-Indian meal is super easy and quite impressive on the table.
Mild but balanced seasoning brings out the oceany aroma of the clams, without requiring a massive pantry of spices. Par-cooking the clams and then straining the liquid allows you to remove any excess sand easily without losing any flavor. The anglo-indian way of cooking this dish ensures that there’s no spice overkill, but you can still get their wonderful aromas and delicate flavours. I love mopping up the gravy with some white bread or even neer dosa (recipe coming soon).
Anglo Indian Clam Stew
- 1 pound fresh littleneck clams
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 5 green chillis slit lenthwise
- 1 large onion chopped fine
- 1/2 inch piece of ginger chopped fine
- 8-10 curry leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1 tomato chopped fine
- 3 tablespoons grated fresh coconut flesh
- Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vinegar or lime juice
- Hearty white bread or rice for serving
In a large pot, cover the clams with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until all the clams are open, transfering them to a colander in the sink as they open. Once all clams open, remove pot from heat. Shuck clams, discarding shells (if desired—shells can be left on) and dipping the clams in the warm liquid in the pot to rinse off any excess grit. Allow liquid to cool and sand to settle on bottom of pot. Pour off liquid through a fine mesh strainer over the clams discard sand.
Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium high heat until shimmering. Add chillies, onions, ginger, and curry leaves and cook, stirring, until onions are slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add turmeric and pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add coconut milk and chopped tomato and bring to a gentle boil. Add grated coconut. Add the clams and the strained stock. Add vinegar or lime juice. Simmer for 1 minute and season with salt to taste. Serve immediately with bread or rice.