One of the great pleasures of my foraging workshops is seeing the moment of recognition: that instant when a student uncovers nature’s banquet for the first time. Such moments were repeated many times over this past weekend on Washington’s storm-tossed ocean beaches, as fifteen of us plied the razor clam flats.
I can’t remember back-to-back digs of such abundance. The shows were everywhere, the clams of good size, with a few mossbacks in the mix (clams old and big enough to have dark mottling on the shell and a greenish hue). I managed several approaching six inches, including one just a hair under at 5 7/8. A Pacific razor clam of that length has more meat on it than a quail.
I had to keep explaining to everyone that it wasn’t usually this easy. The sun was out; on Saturday clammers were even walking the beach in t-shirts; and the clams were begging for discovery, with dozens of shows in an area not much larger than a bath tub!
This was my first razor clam class. We rented a house at Seabrook near Pacific Beach for two nights so we could get in two digs and cook up a feast with our catch. The menu included Fried Razor Clams, Razor Clam Chowder, and Pasta alle Vongole, among many other treats.
Digging razor clams is pure fun—and the meal that awaits ain’t bad either. When I got my haul home and fully processed, I decided to try something new. The clam’s siphon has a texture similar to the mantle of a squid, while the foot—or digger, as it’s known—is considerably more tender. A quick stir-fry with some veggies seemed like a worthy departure from the tried-and-true comfort recipes, and it was.
Chinese Stir-fried Razor Clams
1 cup razor clams, cut into 2-inch strips
1 small red bell pepper, cut to match clams
3 – 4 celery stalks, cut to match clams
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp ginger, fine dice
1 tbsp garlic, fine dice
2 tbsp peanut oil
2 tbsp sambal olek (pickled chili sauce) *
1 1/2 tsp Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp white sugar
2 tsp Chinese black vinegar *
1 tsp Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
1 1/2 tsp corn starch
3 tbsp chicken stock
* available at most Asian markets and some conventional grocers
1. In a bowl, combine clams with marinade and set aside.
2. Whisk together sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
3. In a wok or large saute pan, heat oil over medium-high heat until not quite smoking. Add sambal olek and stir vigorously, 30 seconds. Add ginger and garlic, continuing to stir until fragrant, about a minute.
4. Add sweet red pepper, celery, and clams. Stir thoroughly, coating with red oil, about 2 minutes. Add sliced green onions. Give sauce a stir and add to wok. Stir well another minute and serve immediately with rice.