Simple is best when it comes to cooking fresh ingredients and one of the best ways to fry clams is with ginger and spring onions. Although simple, I have tried cooking this dish at home but never quite got it right. So a few nights ago I went to a seafood restaurant before peak hours and asked the cook if I could watch while he cooked my clams. He was too polite to shoo me away. I made sure not get in his way and stood across the island with his workers running around, probably wondering why I was allowed to stand there.
What I've learnt about frying clams is that you first have to parboil them until they open just a little. This is to make sure that they all open and that you won't get a clamful of sand. It also makes it easier to remove the half of the shell without meat, for presentation. Another must is a very hot wok, so hot that the flames dance around the rim of the wok and cook the clams in a few minutes without sweating the juices out. This is hard to do at home unless you have an outdoor kitchen, which I have, and a burner that can heat up so intensely that it roars, which I don't have.
The cook worked real quick, spooning equal amount of two types of white substances into his big ladle. He confirmed that these were sugar and msg. Salt is not added because the clams are briny from the sea. You can omit the msg but the taste won't be the same as the restaurant's. The cook said there's no need to add cornstarch and water because as the clams cool, the natural juices, which are a little bit creamy, will come out. However, I think that you can add a thin cornstarch and chicken stock or water mixture towards the last minute of frying if you want more sauce.
There are many types of clams and the best clams for this dish are of course the meaty not too small or big ones. Btw, Cook said that you can break the clams open, top with some garlic and wine and steam them for 3 minutes only. There's no need to parboil them. Try it out and tell me.
Ginger spring onion clams on the half shell.
Ginger Spring Onion Clams
1 kg medium-sized clams
8 to 10 thin slices of fresh ginger
a small handful of spring onions
1/4 t sugar
a few shakes of msg (substitute with 1/4 t chicken stock powder)
1-2 T of Chinese white rice wine
1 T chicken broth or water
3-4 T oil
1. Boil some water and add the clams. When the water boils again, scoop or drain the clams into a bowl. The clams should be slightly opened. Too opened and the meat'll fall out. Add enough room temp water to the bowl to cover the clams and break the hinge of the clam. Throw away the valve where the meat is not attached, keeping the valve with meat back in the same bowl. I think this is to wash the clams of any sand. Do same with all the clams.
2. Heat up the wok and add the oil and the ginger slices. When oil is hot, drain away the water from the clams and throw the clams into the wok. Stir a few seconds, then cover for 40 seconds or so depending on the heat. Add the sugar and msg. Stirring all the time, drizzle in the wine, then the chicken broth and add the spring onions. The cook probably took less than 3 minutes to fry the dish but the heat was very intense.
You can mix 1/2 T cornstarch and 2 T water or chicken stock, add it to the clams and heat through (or the sauce'll taste floury) before dishing out, if you want more sauce but Cook doesn't do this.
Dish onto a serving plate and serve immediately.