Sunday, October 14, 2012

Taiwanese-Style Stir-Fried Clams with Chiles & Basil

My mom used to make this dish quite often for lunch when my sis and I were kids. The quality and diversity of seafood in Taiwan was and is truly amazing, so mom was always able to buy freshly-harvested stuff from the local open-air market on a daily basis. The ingredients are quite simple actually - garlic, ginger, red chilies, scallions, basil, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, sesame oil, and, of course, clams. I typically use fresh manila clams for this dish, which are larger and meatier than the clams my mom would use. Littlenecks or Venus clams also work well. Be sure to use fresh Taiwan or Thai basil if you can find it in your local Asian market. Better yet, grow your own from seed ( is a good source). Taiwan basil is similar to Thai basil, but are slightly sweeter. If you don't have Taiwan or Thai basil, then regular sweet/Italian basil will do.

4 lbs. (about 12 clams per lb.) Manila, Littleneck, or Venus clams, scrubbed
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. cornmeal
12 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
4 red jalapeno chilies, seeded & sliced
3 tbsp. rice wine
6 scallions, chopped
2 cups fresh Taiwan or Thai basil leaves (leave whole - do not chop or tear)
1 tbsp. soy sauce (or to taste)
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. sugar
2 tbsp. water

1.  Scrub manila clams clean. If not using right away, place in a large metal bowl over ice; cover & keep refrigerated (best not to keep them in the frig more than a day). About 20-30 minutes before cooking, take clams out of the frig, remove and cover clams with cool water, add 2 tsp. kosher salt & 2 tsp. cornmeal (clams should, hopefully, expel any sand/grit into the water during this time). Do not soak the clams in water overnight or they will die. Clams refrigerated in a bowl uncovered & over ice will keep for about 2-3 days.  

2. Heat 2-3 tbsp. vegetable oil in a large pan or wok over high heat. Add garlic & ginger and saute for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add sliced chilies toss briefly. 

3. Add drained clams & rice wine; cover & bring to a boil over medium high heat until clams start to open (5-7 minutes). Stir in soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and water. NOTE: discard any clams that do not open after cooking.

4. Add scallions & basil and cook about 1-2 minutes until just wilted. Remove from heat & serve. Best to eat the clams as is (just pick them up, scoop up some of the sauce & eat from the shell) - the sauce is also good mixed with steamed white rice. 

Red chilies, garlic, scallions, basil, ginger.

Manila clams.

Saute garlic & ginger in 2-3 tbsp. of vegetable oil.

Add red chilies.

Add clams & rice wine. 

Cover & let cook over medium high heat until clams start to open (about 5-7 minutes).

Rice wine, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil.

Add sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil and water. Stir in scallions and basil.


  1. Thank you! I lived in Taiwan for almost 7 years and u have the recipes I have been dying for since I moved back to MN! Nothing like Taiwanese food...will always be one of my favorite places on Earth and a second home.

    1. I agree - there's nothing like Taiwanese food! I'm happy to hear that you also enjoy those recipes that are very dear to my heart!

  2. Just tried this recipe, Really good, Thank You

    1. Awesome! Glad you enjoyed the dish, Pablo!