When it comes to clams, nothing is worst than biting down hard sand. No matter how much I purge them with salt water and corn meal, there's always a little bit of sand in the dish. To avoid this problem, I have learned to cook the clams in a different pot than the sauce. I cook/steam the clams in a pot, then transfer them with a slotted spoon onto a serving platter as soon as they open. Tilt the pot over to pour out the clam liquor to use in a sauce, leaving the sand behind in the bottom of the pot. Use the liquor, along with other ingredients, to make a sauce in a small sauce pan. Once finished, pour the sauce over the clams. This method not only makes my dish completely sand-free, but also prevents overcooking the clams, keeping the clam meat intact in their shells and making them more aesthetically pleasing.
Stir-fried clams with ginger is a classic Vietnamese clam dish. Add a bit of black bean sauce and you'll get a classic Chinese Dim Sum dish. The fermented black bean sauce is incredibly salty so a little goes a long way. Because both the clams liquor and fermented black bean sauce are both salty, we have to balance out the flavors with quite a bit of sugar and/or hoisin sauce (a sweet sauce). Once you establish the perfect balance between sweet and salty in the dish, the result is amazingly delicious. Serve it by itself as an appetizer or with steamed rice as a complete entree.
Stir-Fried Clams in Black Bean Sauce Recipe (Oc Xao Gung Dau Den)
3 lbs live Manila, Cherrystone, or Littleneck clams
3 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons fermented black bean garlic sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
Corn starch slurry (2 tablespoons corn starch or tapioca starch dissolved in 3 tablespoons water)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons grated or finely minced ginger
1 scallion (thinly slice the green part only)
Clean the clams thoroughly. Scrub the clams individually with a brush then rinse under cold running water. Soak the clams in salted water to remove sand and grit (10 cups water with 2 tablespoons salt). You may also add a tablespoon of cornmeal to help purge the clams clean. After two hours, drain the clams and give them a final rinse.
In a small pot with a lid, add about 1 inch of water and bring it to a boil. No need to add too much water because the clam will render out its own juice. Add clams and cover the pot with a lid. Cook for 2-3 minutes until clams just opened up (make sure not to overcook). Use a slotted spoon to transfer the clams to a serving platter. Tilt the pot and pour out about 1 cup clam liquor (make sure not to get the sand at the bottom of the pot). Set aside the clam liquor for the sauce.
In a small bowl, mix together the reserved clam liquor, sugar, fermented garlic and black bean sauce, rice wine and corn starch slurry.
In a small sauce pan, heat up vegetable oil. Add ginger and saute until fragrant (about 1 minute). Give the sauce mixture a quick whisk in case the corn starch has settled to the bottom. Add the sauce mixture to the pan and cook until it reduces and thickens. Ladle sauce onto clams. Garnish with green onions and serve immediately.