Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Thai-Style Clams in Coconut Broth

In some cases, it’s hard to say whether to call a dish a soup, or to call it soupy, souplike or brothy. All those terms are positives, in any case. Take steamed clams, for instance. For my purposes, a big bowl of clams bobbing around in a broth of their own qualifies as soup. Yes, we appreciate each little sweet clammy morsel as we suck it from the shell, but ultimately it is the clams’ savory juices, enjoyed spoonful by spoonful or slurped from the bowl’s edge, that really satisfy. With clams, the more broth the better.

There are countless approaches. Garlic, parsley and a splash of wine make the simplest sort of soupy clams. Whether you use large cherrystones, littlenecks, diminutive Manila clams or briny cockles, the technique is the same: Put them in a pot, clamp on the lid and turn the heat full blast. In a matter of minutes, the clams are open and ready to eat, swimming in a tasty sea.

That’s a perfect go-to option, but today I’m making a highly aromatic Thai-style version. It requires very little in the way of advance preparation or chopping, but you may need to make a small detour for a few key aromatic ingredients to perfume the soup. Most Asian groceries will have them. Lemongrass, galangal, lime leaf, hot pepper and coconut milk are among the classic Thai seasonings for shellfish; using them is dead simple (and all can be stored in the fridge for a week or more). To release their flavors, crush or bruise them. Bash the lemongrass, tear the lime leaf and slice the galangal before they go in the pot. If you want it especially piquant, smash the hot peppers and add them whole. Otherwise add thinly sliced Thai chiles to taste.

Spicy and refreshing, the bright-tasting broth is a mix of sweet, salty, sour and herbaceous. If you added mussels, scallops or prawns to the clams, no one would complain. But I still maintain it’s the glorious soupiness of this dish that is the real reason to make it.

Fragrant Thai-Style Clams in Coconut Broth

by David Tanis, NY Times |  Read more:
Image: Karsten Moran